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The “Two faces” of Tumor Suppressor p53-revisited

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Author(s): Martin L. Smith | M.A. Suresh Kumar

Journal: Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology
ISSN 1938-1247

Volume: 2;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 117;
Date: 2010;
Original page

ABSTRACT
About 15 years ago, several groups including ours had used matched pairs of cell lines carrying wild type or mutant p53 genes to ascertain a role for p53 in cell survival. These were isogenic cell lines differing only by p53 status. The trend at that time was to support p53-mediated apoptosis. Accordingly, p53-wildtype cells were sensitive to DNA damage compared to p53-mutant cells which were thought to evade apoptosis. However, this finding was not universal. In particular, after UV-radiation, p53-mutant cells were more sensitive than their wild type p53 counterparts in several studies. The finding that p53 controlled a major DNA repair pathway, nucleotide excision repair (NER) which repairs UV-damage, provided a mechanism for the observations. We coined the term “the two faces of tumor suppressor p53” to illustrate that p53 can on one hand induce apoptosis leading to cell sensitivity, but p53 can also enhance the rate of DNA repair thereby protecting cells from DNA damage. This concept has gained acceptance and has been expanded to other DNA-damaging agents. New insights into how p53 is “switched” from a protective function to an apoptotic function are reviewed.
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