Role of p53 in Cell Death and Human Cancers

Cancers (Basel). 2011 Mar 3;3(1):994-1013. doi: 10.3390/cancers3010994.

Abstract

p53 is a nuclear transcription factor with a pro-apoptotic function. Since over 50% of human cancers carry loss of function mutations in p53 gene, p53 has been considered to be one of the classical type tumor suppressors. Mutant p53 acts as the dominant-negative inhibitor toward wild-type p53. Indeed, mutant p53 has an oncogenic potential. In some cases, malignant cancer cells bearing p53 mutations display a chemo-resistant phenotype. In response to a variety of cellular stresses such as DNA damage, p53 is induced to accumulate in cell nucleus to exert its pro-apoptotic function. Activated p53 promotes cell cycle arrest to allow DNA repair and/or apoptosis to prevent the propagation of cells with serious DNA damage through the transactivation of its target genes implicated in the induction of cell cycle arrest and/or apoptosis. Thus, the DNA-binding activity of p53 is tightly linked to its tumor suppressive function. In the present review article, we describe the regulatory mechanisms of p53 and also p53-mediated therapeutic strategies to cure malignant cancers.