The dual role of p53: DNA protection and antioxidant

Free Radic Res. 2011 Jun;45(6):643-52. doi: 10.3109/10715762.2011.571685. Epub 2011 Mar 31.


The classical functions of p53 protein are those related to its role on DNA damage, cell growth arrest, senescence and apoptosis. For this reason it is called 'the guardian of the genome' and is considered one of the most important players in the development of cancer. However, more recently it has been show that p53 is not only involved in cancer, but also in ageing. p53 is stimulated by stress, which in turn results in the activation of a wide range of transcriptional targets. Low-intensity stress will activate p53 in a manner which results in antioxidant response, thus protecting against ageing because of its antioxidant function. On the contrary, high-intensity activation of p53 will result in an increase of oxidative stress by activation of p53-mediated pro-oxidant targets, thus increasing the rate of ageing, but protecting against cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53