The isoforms of the p53 protein

Marie P. Khoury, Jean-Christophe Bourdon

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    146 Citations (Scopus)


    p53 is a transcription factor with a key role in the maintenance of genetic stability and therefore preventing cancer formation. It belongs to a family of genes composed of p53, p63, and p73. The p63 and p73 genes have a dual gene structure with an internal promoter in intron-3 and together with alternative splicing, can express 6 and 29 mRNA variants, respectively. Such a complex expression pattern had not been previously described for the p53 gene, which was not consistent with our understanding of the evolution of the p53 gene family. Consequently, we revisited the human p53 gene structure and established that it encodes nine different p53 protein isoforms because of alternative splicing, alternative promoter usage, and alternative initiation sites of translation. Therefore, the human p53 gene family (p53, p63, and p73) has a dual gene structure. We determined that the dual gene structure is conserved in Drosophila and in zebrafish p53 genes. The conservation through evolution of the dual gene structure suggests that the p53 isoforms play an important role in p53 tumor-suppressor activity.

    We and others have established that the p53 isoforms can regulate cell-fate outcome in response to stress, by modulating p53 transcriptional activity in a promoter and stress-dependent manner. We have also shown that the p53 isoforms are abnormally expressed in several types of human cancers, suggesting that they play an important role in cancer formation. The determination of p53 isoforms' expression may help to link clinical outcome to p53 status and to improve cancer patient treatment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbera000927
    Pages (from-to)-
    Number of pages10
    JournalCold spring harbor perspectives in biology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


    • GENES
    • P73


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