p53 inactivation upregulates p73 expression through E2F-1 mediated transcription

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43564. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043564. Epub 2012 Aug 30.


While p73 overexpression has been associated with increased apoptosis in cancer tissues, p73 overexpressing tumors appear to be of high grade malignancy. Why this putative tumor suppressor is overexpressed in cancer cells and what the function of overexpressed p73 is in breast cancers are critical questions to be addressed. By investigating the effect of p53 inactivation on p73 expression, we found that both protein and mRNA levels of TAp73 were increased in MCF-7/p53siRNA cells, MCF-7/p53mt135 cells and HCT-116/p53-/- cells, as compared to wild type control, suggesting that p53 inactivation by various forms upregulates p73. We showed that p53 knockdown induced p73 was mainly regulated at the transcriptional level. However, although p53 has a putative binding site in the TAp73 promoter, deletion of this binding site did not affect p53 knockdown mediated activation of TAp73 promoter. Chromatin immuno-precipitation (ChIP) data demonstrated that loss of p53 results in enhanced occupancy of E2F-1 in the TAp73 promoter. The responsive sequence of p53 inactivation mediated p73 upregulation was mapped to the proximal promoter region of the TAp73 gene. To test the role of E2F-1 in p53 inactivation mediated regulation of p73 transcription, we found that p53 knockdown enhanced E2F-1 dependent p73 transcription, and mutations in E2F-1 binding sites in the TAp73 promoter abrogated p53 knockdown mediated activation of TAp73 promoter. Moreover, we demonstrated that p21 is a mediator of p53-E2F crosstalk in the regulation of p73 transcription. We concluded that p53 knockdown/inactivation may upregulate TAp73 expression through E2F-1 mediated transcriptional regulation. p53 inactivation mediated upregulation of p73 suggests an intrinsic rescuing mechanism in response to p53 mutation/inactivation. These findings support further analysis of the correlation between p53 status and p73 expression and its prognostic/predictive significance in human cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • E2F1 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tumor Protein p73
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation*


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • E2F1 Transcription Factor
  • E2F1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • TP53 protein, human
  • TP73 protein, human
  • Tumor Protein p73
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins

Grants and funding

This work was supported in part by a Seed Grant to Dr. XH Yang from the University of Oklahoma Cancer Center Institutional Research Grant from the American Cancer Society ASC-IRG #IRG-05-066-01 (http://www.cancer.org/), and by a Research Scholar Grant from American Cancer Society (RSG-08-138-01-CNE, http://www.cancer.org/). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.