Tumor suppressive functions of p53

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2009 Nov;1(5):a001883. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a001883.


The majority of human cancers acquire mutations that abrogate the p53 tumor suppressor network and, as a consequence, p53 is one of the most extensively studied proteins in cancer research. Because of its potent tumor suppressive activity, it is widely assumed that a molecular understanding of p53 action will produce fundamental insights into natural processes that limit tumorigenesis and may identify key molecular targets for therapeutic intervention. p53 functions largely as a transcription factor, and can trigger a variety of antiproliferative programs by activating or repressing key effector genes. Despite a significant body of literature detailing the biochemical and biological functions of p53, much remains to be elucidated. Indeed, the p53 network is as complex and enigmatic as it is relevant. It is the goal of this article, written 30 years after the discovery of p53, to present a concise review of the tumor suppressor role of the p53 network and to highlight the context-dependent nature of p53 target-gene functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Genes, p53
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53