Transcriptional mutagenesis dramatically alters genome-wide p53 transactivation landscape

Sci Rep. 2020 Aug 11;10(1):13513. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-70412-4.


The transcriptional error rate can be significantly increased by the presence of DNA lesions that instruct mis-insertion during transcription; a process referred to as transcriptional mutagenesis (TM) that can result in altered protein function. Herein, we determined the effect of O6-methylguanine (O6-meG) on transcription and subsequent transactivation activity of p53 in human lung H1299 cells. Levels of TM and effects on transactivation were determined genome wide by RNA-seq. Results showed that 47% of all p53 transcripts contained an uridine misincorporation opposite the lesion at 6 h post transfection, which was decreased to 18% at 24 h. TM at these levels reduced DNA binding activity of p53 to 21% and 80% compared to wild type p53, respectively. Gene expression data were analysed to identify differentially expressed genes due to TM of p53. We show a temporal repression of transactivation of > 100 high confidence p53 target genes including regulators of the cell cycle, DNA damage response and apoptosis. In addition, TM repressed the transcriptional downregulation by p53 of several negative regulators of proliferation and differentiation. Our work demonstrates that TM, even when restricting its effect to an individual transcription factor, has the potential to alter gene expression programs and diversify cellular phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation / genetics
  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics*
  • Transcriptional Activation*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • DNA