Time-series transcriptomics and proteomics reveal alternative modes to decode p53 oscillations

Mol Syst Biol. 2022 Mar;18(3):e10588. doi: 10.15252/msb.202110588.


The cell stress-responsive transcription factor p53 influences the expression of its target genes and subsequent cellular responses based in part on its dynamics (changes in level over time). The mechanisms decoding p53 dynamics into subsequent target mRNA and protein dynamics remain unclear. We systematically quantified p53 target mRNA and protein expression over time under two p53 dynamical regimes, oscillatory and rising, using RNA-sequencing and TMT mass spectrometry. Oscillatory dynamics allowed for a greater variety of dynamical patterns for both mRNAs and proteins. Mathematical modeling of empirical data revealed three distinct mechanisms that decode p53 dynamics. Specific combinations of these mechanisms at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels enabled exclusive induction of proteins under particular dynamics. In addition, rising induction of p53 led to higher induction of proteins regardless of their functional class, including proteins promoting arrest of proliferation, the primary cellular outcome under rising p53. Our results highlight the diverse mechanisms cells employ to distinguish complex transcription factor dynamics to regulate gene expression.

Keywords: decoding mechanisms; network motifs; p53 dynamics; proteomics; transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Proteomics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptome* / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53* / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53* / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53