DNA damage activates p53 through a phosphorylation-acetylation cascade

Genes Dev. 1998 Sep 15;12(18):2831-41. doi: 10.1101/gad.12.18.2831.


Activation of p53-mediated transcription is a critical cellular response to DNA damage. p53 stability and site-specific DNA-binding activity and, therefore, transcriptional activity, are modulated by post-translational modifications including phosphorylation and acetylation. Here we show that p53 is acetylated in vitro at separate sites by two different histone acetyltransferases (HATs), the coactivators p300 and PCAF. p300 acetylates Lys-382 in the carboxy-terminal region of p53, whereas PCAF acetylates Lys-320 in the nuclear localization signal. Acetylations at either site enhance sequence-specific DNA binding. Using a polyclonal antisera specific for p53 that is phosphorylated or acetylated at specific residues, we show that Lys-382 of human p53 becomes acetylated and Ser-33 and Ser-37 become phosphorylated in vivo after exposing cells to UV light or ionizing radiation. In vitro, amino-terminal p53 peptides phosphorylated at Ser-33 and/or at Ser-37 differentially inhibited p53 acetylation by each HAT. These results suggest that DNA damage enhances p53 activity as a transcription factor in part through carboxy-terminal acetylation that, in turn, is directed by amino-terminal phosphorylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA Damage / genetics
  • DNA Damage / physiology*
  • DNA Probes / genetics
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Nuclear Localization Signals
  • Phosphorylation
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / chemistry
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • p300-CBP Transcription Factors


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DNA Probes
  • Nuclear Localization Signals
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • p300-CBP Transcription Factors
  • p300-CBP-associated factor