p53 Ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation

Methods Mol Biol. 2013;962:63-73. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-236-0_5.


p53 levels and activity are controlled in large part through regulated ubiquitination and subsequent destruction by the 26S proteasome. Monoubiquitination of p53 is mediated primarily by the RING-finger E3 ubiquitin ligase MDM2 and impacts p53 activity through modulation of p53 localization and transcription activities. Recently, several E4 ubiquitin ligases (E4s) have been identified which serve to extend these monoubiquitin chains. The ubiquitin ligase activity of these factors toward p53, and their contribution to p53 degradation, can be studied using a variety of in vitro and in vivo methods and reagents which will be described in this chapter. These methods include in vivo ubiquitination of p53 using HA-ubiquitin or his-ubiquitin; the in vitro E3 ubiquitin ligase assay, in which ubiquitin reaction components (URC) are incubated with a purified E3 or E4 ligase; a one-step E4 assay, in which URC are incubated with a substrate, E3, and E4; and a two-step E4 assay in which p53 is monoubiquitinated in an E3 reaction, and subsequently purified and incubated with an E4. Finally, we will describe an in vitro degradation assay in which ubiquitinated p53 is incubated with purified 26S proteasomes. Together, these assays can be used to provide insight into the biochemical nature of p53 ubiquitination and degradation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / genetics
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / metabolism
  • Sf9 Cells
  • Spodoptera
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism
  • Ubiquitination*


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • MDM2 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • ATP dependent 26S protease