p53 Suppresses E2F1-dependent PLK1 expression upon DNA damage by forming p53-E2F1-DNA complex

Exp Cell Res. 2013 Dec 10;319(20):3104-15. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2013.09.012. Epub 2013 Sep 26.


E2F1 is implicated in transcriptional activation of polo-like kinase-1 (PLK1), but yet the mechanism is not fully understood. PLK1 suppression plays an important checkpoint role in response to DNA damage. Suppression of the PLK1 gene by binding of p53 to upstream p53RE2 element in the promoter has been recently revealed. Here we report another mechanism, in which p53 interacts with E2F1 to form p53-E2F1-DNA complex repressing E2F1-dependent PLK1 expression. PLK1 was downregulated in cisplatin exposed HCT116p53(+/+) but not HCT116p53(-/-) cells, indicating p53-suppressed PLK1 upon DNA damage. Co-transfection and reporter enzyme assays revealed that p53 suppressed but E2F1 promoted PLK1 gene activation. 5'-Deletion and substitution mutations showed multiple positive cis-elements residing in the PLK1 promoter, of which at least two E2F1 sites at positions -75/-68 and -40/-32 were required for the full activity of the promoter. Combination of 5'-deletion and substitution mutations with over-expression of p53 showed that suppression of the PLK1 gene by p53 was E2F1-dependent: mutation of the E2F1 site at position -75/-68 partially abrogated suppression activity of p53; mutation of E2F1 site at position -40/-32 released from p53 suppression of PLK1 gene completely. Co-immunoprecipitation and electrophoretic mobility shift assay showed that DNA damage promoted p53-E2F1 interaction, thereby creating a p53-E2F1 complex assembly on the PLK1 promoter in vitro. The in vivo formation of p53-E2F1-PLK1 promoter complex upon DNA damage was further evidenced by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and re-ChIP. In addition, we showed that suppression of PLK1 by p53 promoted apoptosis. Our data suggest that p53 may interact with E2F1 to form p53-E2F1-DNA complex suppressing E2F1-dependent PLK1 expression. The model of p53 action on E2F1-activated PLK1 gene may explain at least partly how p53 as a suppressor regulates the downstream effects of E2F1 in cellular stresses including DNA damage stress.

Keywords: DNA damage; E2F1; PLK1; Transcription regulation; p53.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Damage*
  • E2F1 Transcription Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • E2F1 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • E2F1 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / biosynthesis
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • E2F1 Transcription Factor
  • E2F1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • DNA
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • polo-like kinase 1