Sun-induced nonsynonymous p53 mutations are extensively accumulated and tolerated in normal appearing human skin

J Invest Dermatol. 2011 Feb;131(2):504-8. doi: 10.1038/jid.2010.302. Epub 2010 Oct 14.


Here we demonstrate that intermittently sun-exposed human skin contains an extensive number of phenotypically intact cell compartments bearing missense and nonsense mutations in the p53 tumor suppressor gene. Deep sequencing of sun-exposed and shielded microdissected skin from mid-life individuals revealed that persistent p53 mutations had accumulated in 14% of all epidermal cells, with no apparent signs of a growth advantage of the affected cell compartments. Furthermore, 6% of the mutated epidermal cells encoded a truncated protein. The abundance of these events, not taking into account intron mutations and mutations in other genes that also may have functional implications, suggests an extensive tolerance of human cells to severe genetic alterations caused by UV light, with an estimated annual rate of accumulation of ∼35,000 new persistent protein-altering p53 mutations in sun-exposed skin of a human individual.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Codon, Nonsense / genetics*
  • Codon, Nonsense / radiation effects
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Epidermis / pathology
  • Epidermis / radiation effects
  • Exons / genetics
  • Exons / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation, Missense / genetics*
  • Mutation, Missense / radiation effects
  • Phenotype
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / radiation effects*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*


  • Codon, Nonsense
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53