p53 isoforms: an intracellular microprocessor?

Marie P. Khoury, Jean-Christophe Bourdon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    138 Citations (Scopus)


    Normal function of the p53 pathway is ubiquitously lost in cancers either through mutation or inactivating interaction with viral or cellular proteins. However, it is difficult in clinical studies to link p53 mutation status to cancer treatment and clinical outcome, suggesting that the p53 pathway is not fully understood. We have recently reported that the human p53 gene expresses not only 1 but 12 different p53 proteins (isoforms) due to alternative splicing, alternative initiation of translation, and alternative promoter usage. p53 isoform proteins thus contain distinct protein domains. They are expressed in normal human tissues but are abnormally expressed in a wide range of cancer types. We have recently reported that p53 isoform expression is associated with breast cancer prognosis, suggesting that they play a role in carcinogenesis. Indeed, the cellular response to damages can be switched from cell cycle arrest to apoptosis by only manipulating p53 isoform expression. This may provide an explanation to the hitherto inconsistent relationship between p53 mutation, treatment response, and outcome in breast cancer. However, the molecular mechanism is still unknown. Recent reports suggest that it involves modulation of gene expression in a p53-dependent and -independent manner. In this review, we summarize our current knowledge about the biological activities of p53 isoforms and propose a molecular mechanism conciliating our current knowledge on p53 and integrating p63 and p73 isoforms in the p53 pathway.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)453-465
    Number of pages13
    JournalGenes and Cancer
    Issue number4
    Early online date15 Jun 2011
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2011


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