Mdm2 and MdmX are structurally related p53-binding proteins that function as critical negative regulators of p53 activity in embryonic and adult tissue. The overexpression of Mdm2 or MdmX inhibits p53 tumor suppressor functions in vitro, and the amplification of Mdm2 or MdmX is observed in human cancers retaining wild-type p53. We now demonstrate a surprising role for MdmX in suppressing tumorigenesis that is distinct from its oncogenic ability to inhibit p53. The deletion of MdmX induces multipolar mitotic spindle formation and the loss of chromosomes from hyperploid p53-null cells. This reduction in chromosome number, not observed in p53-null cells with Mdm2 deleted, correlates with increased cell proliferation and the spontaneous transformation of MdmX/p53-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts in vitro and with an increased rate of spontaneous tumorigenesis in MdmX/p53-null mice in vivo. These results indicate that MdmX has a p53-independent role in suppressing oncogenic cell transformation, proliferation, and tumorigenesis by promoting centrosome clustering and bipolar mitosis.
Human tumors are believed to harbor a disabled p53 tumor suppressor pathway, either through direct mutation of the p53 gene or through aberrant expression of proteins acting in the p53 pathway, such as p14ARF or Mdm2. A role for Mdmx (or Mdm4) as a key negative regulator of p53 function in vivo has been established. However, a direct contribution of Mdmx to tumor formation remains to be demonstrated. Here we show that retrovirus-mediated Mdmx overexpression allows primary mouse embryonic fibroblast immortalization and leads to neoplastic transformation in combination with HRasV12. Furthermore, the human Mdmx ortholog, Hdmx, was found to be overexpressed in a significant percentage of various human tumors and amplified in 5% of primary breast tumors, all of which retained wild-type p53. Hdmx was also amplified and highly expressed in MCF-7, a breast cancer cell line harboring wild-type p53, and interfering RNA-mediated reduction of Hdmx markedly inhibited the growth potential of these cells in a p53-dependent manner. Together, these results make Hdmx a new putative drug target for cancer therapy.
MDMX is a hetero dimeric partner of MDM2 and a critical regulator of p53. MDMX level is generally elevated in tumors with wild type p53 and contributes to p53 inactivation. MDMX degradation is controlled in part by MDM2-mediated ubiquitination. Here we show that MDMX turnover is highly responsive to changes in MDM2 level in non-transformed cells, but not in tumor cells. We found that loss of ARF expression, which occurs in most tumors with wild type p53, significantly reduces MDMX sensitivity to MDM2. Restoration of ARF expression in tumor cells enables MDM2 to degrade MDMX in a dose-dependent fashion. ARF binds to MDM2 and stimulates a second-site interaction between the central region of MDM2 and MDMX, thus increases MDMX-MDM2 binding and MDMX ubiquitination. These results reveal an important abnormality in the p53 regulatory pathway as a consequence of ARF deficiency. Loss of ARF during tumor development not only prevents p53 stabilization by proliferative stress, but also causes accumulation of MDMX that compromises p53 activity. This phenomenon may reduce the clinical efficacy of MDM2-specific inhibitors by preventing MDMX down regulation.
MDM2; MDMX; ARF; p53; ubiquitination; Nutlin
The p53 tumor suppressor is a key protein in maintaining the integrity of the genome by inducing either cell cycle arrest or apoptosis following cellular stress signals. Two human family members, Mdm2 and Mdmx, are primarily responsible for inactivating p53 transcription and targeting p53 protein for ubiquitin-mediated degradation. In response to genotoxic stress, post-translational modifications to p53, Mdm2 and Mdmx stabilize and activate p53. The role that phosphorylation of these molecules plays in the cellular response to genotoxic agents has been extensively studied with respect to cancer biology. In this review, we discuss the main phosphorylation events of p53, Mdm2 and Mdmx in response to DNA damage that are important for p53 stability and activity. In tumors that harbor wild-type p53, reactivation of p53 by modulating both Mdm2 and Mdmx signaling is well suited as a therapeutic strategy. However, the rationale for development of kinase inhibitors that target the Mdm2-Mdmx-p53 axis must be carefully considered since modulation of certain kinase signaling pathways has the potential to destabilize and inactivate p53.
Mdm2; Mdmx; p53; phosphorylation; kinase inhibitor
The MDM family proteins MDM2 and MDMX are two critical regulators of the p53 tumor suppressor protein. Expression of both proteins is necessary for allowing the embryonal development by keeping the activity of p53 in check. Upon stresses that need to activate p53 to perform its function as guardian of the genome, p53 has to be liberated from these two inhibitors. In this review, we will discuss the various mechanisms by which MDMX protein levels are downregulated upon various types of stress, including posttranslational modifications of the MDMX protein and the regulation of mdmx mRNA expression, including alternative splicing. In addition, the putative function(s) of the described MDMX splice variants, particularly in tumor development, will be discussed. Lastly, in contrast to common belief, we have recently shown the existence of a p53-MDMX feedback loop, which is important for dampening the p53-response at later phases after genotoxic stress.
The cellular homologues Mdm2 and MdmX play critical roles in regulating the activity of the p53 tumor suppressor in damaged and non-damaged cells and during development in mice. Recently, we have utilized genetically defined primary cells and mice to reveal that endogenous levels of MdmX can also suppress multipolar mitosis and transformation in hyperploid p53-deficient cells and tumorigenesis in p53-deficient mice. These MdmX functions are not shared by Mdm2, and are distinct from the well-established ability of MdmX to complex with and inhibit p53 activity. Here we discuss some of the ramifications of MdmX loss in p53-deficient cells and mice, and we explore further the fate of MdmX/p53-double null embryonic fibroblasts undergoing multi-polar cell division using time-lapse video microscopy. We also discuss the relationship between chromosomal loss, cell proliferation, and the tumorigenic potential of p53-deficient cells lacking MdmX.
p53; MdmX; Mdm2; mitosis; transformation
The contribution of Mdm2, and its recently identified family member Mdmx (Mdm4), to tumorigenesis has primarily focused on their negative regulation of the p53 tumor suppressor. Although Mdm2 and Mdmx clearly inhibit p53, which can lead to tumor development, both have also been shown to affect tumorigenesis independent of p53. Given that Mdm2 and/or Mdmx overexpression is common and likely underestimated in human cancers, understanding the functions of these proteins beyond p53 control is critical. In recent years, new functions of Mdm2 and Mdmx that lead to genome instability, a hallmark of malignancy, have emerged. Specifically, roles in the DNA damage response that are distinct from their regulation of p53 have been identified. Inhibition of p53 as well as other components of the DNA damage response by Mdm2 and Mdmx can result in delayed DNA repair and increased genome instability, making Mdm2 and Mdmx a danger to the genome when aberrantly expressed. However, the genome instability caused by altered levels of Mdm2 and Mdmx could be used therapeutically for the treatment of cancer. Specifically, drugs/small molecules that target the interaction between Mdm2 and p53 can stabilize Mdm2, resulting in negative consequences on the genome that could be exploited for cancer treatment, particularly malignancies lacking functional p53.
Mdm2; Mdmx; p53; Nbs1; genome instability
Tumor suppressor protein p53 is regulated by two structurally homologous proteins, Mdm2 and MdmX. In contrast to Mdm2, MdmX lacks ubiquitin ligase activity. Although the essential interactions of MdmX are known, it is not clear how they function to regulate p53. The regulation of tumor suppressor p53 by Mdm2 and MdmX in response to DNA damage was investigated by mathematical modeling of a simplified network. The simplified network model was derived from a detailed molecular interaction map (MIM) that exhibited four coherent DNA damage response pathways. The results suggest that MdmX may amplify or stabilize DNA damage-induced p53 responses via non-enzymatic interactions. Transient effects of MdmX are mediated by reservoirs of p53∶MdmX and Mdm2∶MdmX heterodimers, with MdmX buffering the concentrations of p53 and/or Mdm2. A survey of kinetic parameter space disclosed regions of switch-like behavior stemming from such reservoir-based transients. During an early response to DNA damage, MdmX positively or negatively regulated p53 activity, depending on the level of Mdm2; this led to amplification of p53 activity and switch-like response. During a late response to DNA damage, MdmX could dampen oscillations of p53 activity. A possible role of MdmX may be to dampen such oscillations that otherwise could produce erratic cell behavior. Our study suggests how MdmX may participate in the response of p53 to DNA damage either by increasing dependency of p53 on Mdm2 or by dampening oscillations of p53 activity and presents a model for experimental investigation.
A Molecular Interaction Map (MIM) akin to a circuit diagram of an electric device can give a comprehensive view of cellular processes and help understand complex protein functions in cells. To this end, we generated a MIM focused on the p53-Mdm2-MdmX network proteins and performed computer simulations to help understand how Mdm2 and MdmX may regulate p53. Proper regulation of p53 is important for cell survival: elevated levels of p53 can lead to cell death, and decreased levels of p53 can lead to cancer. Mdm2 and MdmX are structurally homologous proteins that regulate p53. Mdm2 negatively regulates p53 by degradation, but MdmX regulation of p53 is not well understood. Recently, Mdm2 and MdmX have been recognized as potential cancer therapeutic targets. In an effort to better understand how MdmX can alter the p53 activity under various conditions, we used mathematical models based on the MIM network to generate hypotheses that can be tested by experiments. Our simulations suggest that MdmX may increase the dependency of p53 on Mdm2 or dampen p53 oscillations during DNA damage response.
MdmX and Mdm2 regulate p53 tumor suppressor functions by controlling p53 transcriptional activity and/or stability in cells exposed to DNA damage. Accumulating evidence indicates that ATM-mediated phosphorylation and degradation of Mdm2 and MdmX may be the initial driving force that induces p53 activity during the early phase of the DNA damage response. We have recently determined that a novel protein phosphatase, Wip1 (or PPM1D), contributes to p53 regulation by dephosphorylating Mdm2 to close the p53 activation loop initiated by the ATM/ATR kinases. In the present study, we determine that Wip1 directly dephosphorylates MdmX at the ATM-targeted Ser403 and indirectly suppresses phosphorylation of MdmX at Ser342 and Ser367. Wip1 inhibits the DNA damage-induced ubiquitination and degradation of MdmX, leading to the stabilization of MdmX and reduction of p53 activities. Our data suggest that Wip1 is an important component in the ATM-p53-MdmX regulatory loop.
Wip1; MdmX; Stabilization; Dephosphorylation
Previous studies have suggested that the mdmX gene is constitutively transcribed, and that MdmX protein activity is instead controlled by cellular localization and DNA damage induced Mdm2-mediated ubiquitination leading to proteasomal degradation. In these studies, we report that the human mdmX (hdmX) mRNA is reproducibly decreased in various human cell lines following treatment with various DNA-damaging agents. Repression of hdmX transcripts is observed in DNAdamaged HCT116 colon cancer cells and in isogenic p53−/− cells, suggesting that this effect is p53-independent. Reduction in the amount of hdmX transcript occurs in both human tumor cell lines and primary human diploid fibroblasts, and results in a significant reduction of HdmX protein. Examination of hdmX promoter activity suggests that damage-induced repression of hdmX mRNA is not significantly impacted by transcription initiation. In contrast, changes in hdmX mRNA splicing appear to partly explain the reduction in full-length hdmX mRNA levels in tumor cell lines with the destabilization of full-length hdmX transcripts, potentially through microRNA miR-34a regulation, also impacting transcript levels. Taken together, this study uncovers previously unrecognized cellular mechanisms by which hdmX mRNA levels are kept low following genotoxic stress.
HdmX; p53; transcription; splicing; micro-RNAs
The p53 tumor suppressor protein is stabilized in response to cellular stress, resulting in activation of genes responsible for either cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. The cellular pathway for releasing normal cells from p53-dependent cell cycle arrest involves the Mdm2 protein. Recently, a p53-binding protein with homology to Mdm2 was identified and called MdmX. Like Mdm2, MdmX is able to bind p53 and inhibit p53 transactivation; however, the ability of MdmX to degrade p53 has yet to be examined. We report here that MdmX is capable of associating with p53 yet is unable to facilitate nuclear export or induce p53 degradation. In addition, expression of MdmX can reverse Mdm2-targeted degradation of p53 while maintaining suppression of p53 transactivation. Using a series of MdmX deletions, we have determined that there are two distinct domains of the MdmX protein that can stabilize p53 in the presence of Mdm2. One domain requires MdmX interaction with p53 and results in the retention of both proteins within the nucleus and repression of p53 transactivation. The second domain involves the MdmX ring finger and results in stabilization of p53 and an increase in p53 transactivation. The potential basis for stabilization and increased p53 transactivation by the MdmX ring finger domain is discussed. Based on these observations, we propose that the MdmX protein may function to maintain a nuclear pool of p53 protein in undamaged cells.
MDMX is an important regulator of p53 transcriptional activity and stress response. MDMX overexpression and gene amplification are implicated in p53 inactivation and tumor development. Unlike MDM2, MDMX is not inducible by p53, and little is known about its regulation at the transcriptional level. We found that MDMX levels in tumor cell lines closely correlate with promoter activity and mRNA level. Activated K-Ras and insulin-like growth factor 1 induce MDMX expression at the transcriptional level through mechanisms that involve the mitogen-activated protein kinase and c-Ets-1 transcription factors. Pharmacological inhibition of MEK results in down-regulation of MDMX in tumor cell lines. MDMX overexpression was detected in ∼50% of human colon tumors and showed strong correlation with increased extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation. Therefore, MDMX expression is regulated by mitogenic signaling pathways. This mechanism may protect normal proliferating cells from p53 but also hamper p53 response during tumor development.
P53 inactivation caused by aberrant expression of its major regulators (e.g., MDM2 and MDMX) contributes to the genesis of a large number of human cancers. Recent studies have demonstrated that restoration of p53 activity by counteracting p53 repressors is a promising anti-cancer strategy. Although agents (e.g., Nutlin-3a) that disrupt MDM2-p53 interaction can inhibit tumor growth, they are less effective in cancer cells that express high levels of MDMX. MDMX binds to p53 and can repress the tumor suppressor function of p53 through inhibiting its trans-activation activity and/or destabilizing the protein. Here we report the identification of a benzofuroxan derivative (7-(4-methylpiperazin-1-yl)-4-nitro-1-oxido-2,1,3-benzoxadiazol-1-ium, NSC207895) that could inhibit MDMX expression in cancer cells through a reporter-based drug screening. Treatments of MCF-7 cells with this small-molecule MDMX inhibitor activated p53, resulting in elevated expression of proapoptotic genes (e.g., PUMA, BAX, and PIG3). Importantly, this novel small-molecule p53 activator caused MCF-7 cells to undergo apoptosis, and acted additively with Nutlin-3a to activate p53 and decrease the viability of cancer cells. These results thus demonstrate that small molecules targeting MDMX expression would be of therapeutic benefits.
MDMX; small-molecule inhibitor; p53; targeted therapy; apoptosis
p53 plays an important role in the regulation of the cell cycle, DNA repair, and apoptosis and is an attractive cancer therapeutic target. Mdm2 and Mdmx are recognized as the main p53 negative regulators. Although it is still unknown why Mdm2 and Mdmx both are required for p53 degradation, a model has been proposed whereby these two proteins function independent of one another; Mdm2 acts as an E3 ubiquitin ligase that catalyzes the ubiquitination of p53 for degradation, whereas Mdmx inhibits p53 by binding to and masking the transcriptional activation domain of p53, without causing its degradation. However, Mdm2 and Mdmx have been shown to function collaboratively. In fact, recent studies have pointed to a more important role for an Mdm2/Mdmx co-regulatory mechanism for p53 regulation than previously thought. In this review, we summarize current progress in the field about the functional and physical interactions between Mdm2 and Mdmx, their individual and collaborative roles in controlling p53, and inhibitors that target Mdm2 and Mdmx as a novel class of anticancer therapeutics.
Mdm2; MdmX; p53; cancer
The p53 tumor suppressor is regulated by MDM2-mediated ubiquitination and degradation. Mitogenic signals activate p53 by induction of ARF expression, which inhibits p53 ubiquitination by MDM2. Recent studies showed that the MDM2 homolog MDMX is also an important regulator of p53. We present evidence that MDM2 promotes MDMX ubiquitination and degradation by the proteasomes. This effect is stimulated by ARF and correlates with the ability of ARF to bind MDM2. Promotion of MDM2-mediated MDMX ubiquitination requires the N-terminal domain of ARF, which normally inhibits MDM2 ubiquitination of p53. An intact RING domain of MDM2 is also required, both to interact with MDMX and to provide E3 ligase function. Increase of MDM2 and ARF levels by DNA damage, recombinant ARF adenovirus infection, or inducible MDM2 expression leads to proteasome-mediated down-regulation of MDMX levels. Therefore, MDMX and MDM2 are coordinately regulated by stress signals. The ARF tumor suppressor differentially regulates the ability of MDM2 to promote p53 and MDMX ubiquitination and activates p53 by targeting both members of the MDM2 family.
MDM4, also called MDMX or HDMX in humans, is an important negative regulator of the p53 tumor suppressor. MDM4 is overexpressed in about 17% of all cancers and more frequently in some types, such as colon cancer or retinoblastoma. MDM4 is known to be post-translationally regulated by MDM2-mediated ubiquitination to decrease its protein levels in response to genotoxic stress, resulting in accumulation and activation of p53. At the transcriptional level, MDM4 gene regulation has been less clearly understood. We have reported that DNA damage triggers loss of MDM4 mRNA and a concurrent increase in p53 activity. These experiments attempt to determine a mechanism for down-regulation of MDM4 mRNA.
Here we report that MDM4 mRNA is a target of hsa-mir-34a (miR-34a). MDM4 mRNA contains a lengthy 3′ untranslated region; however, we find that it is a miR-34a site within the open reading frame (ORF) of exon 11 that is responsible for the repression. Overexpression of miR-34a, but not a mutant miR-34a, is sufficient to decrease MDM4 mRNA levels to an extent identical to those of known miR-34a target genes. Likewise, MDM4 protein levels are decreased by miR-34a overexpression. Inhibition of endogenous miR-34a increased expression of miR-34a target genes and MDM4. A portion of MDM4 exon 11 containing this 8mer-A1 miR-34a site fused to a luciferase reporter gene is sufficient to confer responsiveness, being inhibited by additional expression of exogenous mir-34a and activated by inhibition of miR-34a.
These data establish a mechanism for the observed DNA damage-induced negative regulation of MDM4 and potentially provide a novel means to manipulate MDM4 expression without introducing DNA damage.
p53 is an important tumor suppressor, functioning as a transcriptional activator and repressor. Upon receiving signals from multiple stress related pathways, p53 regulates numerous activities such as cell cycle arrest, senescence, and cell death. When p53 activities are not required, the protein is held in check by interacting with 2 key homologous regulators, Mdm2 and MdmX, and a search for inhibitors of these interactions is well underway. However, it is now recognized that Mdm2 and MdmX function beyond simple inhibition of p53, and a complete understanding of Mdm2 and MdmX functions is ever more important. Indeed, increasing evidence suggests that Mdm2 and MdmX affect p53 target gene specificity and influence the activity of other transcription factors, and Mdm2 itself may even function as a transcription co-factor through post-translational modification of chromatin. Additionally, Mdm2 affects post-transcriptional activities such as mRNA stability and translation of a variety of transcripts. Thus, Mdm2 and MdmX influence the expression of many genes through a wide variety of mechanisms, which are discussed in this review.
Hdm2; Mdm4; transcription; translation
A wild-type (wt) p53 gene characterizes thyroid tumors, except for the rare anaplastic histotype. Because p53 inactivation is a prerequisite for tumor development, alterations of p53 regulators represent an alternative way to impair p53 function. Indeed, murine double minute 2 (MDM2), the main p53 negative regulator, is overexpressed in many tumor histotypes including those of the thyroid. A new p53 regulator, MDM4 (a.k.a. MDMX or HDMX) an analog of MDM2, represents a new oncogene although its impact on tumor properties remains largely unexplored. We estimated levels of MDM2, MDM4, and its variants, MDM4-S (originally HDMX-S) and MDM4-211 (originally HDMX211), in a group of 57 papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC), characterized by wt tumor protein 53, in comparison to matched contra-lateral lobe normal tissue. Further, we evaluated the association between expression levels of these genes and the histopathological features of tumors. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction revealed a highly significant downregulation of MDM4 mRNA in tumor tissue compared to control tissue (P < 0.0001), a finding confirmed by western blot on a subset of 20 tissue pairs. Moreover, the tumor-to-normal ratio of MDM4 levels for each individual was significantly lower in late tumor stages, suggesting a specific downregulation of MDM4 expression with tumor progression. In comparison, MDM2 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels were frequently upregulated with no correlation with MDM4 levels. Lastly, we frequently detected overexpression of MDM4-S mRNA and presence of the aberrant form, MDM4-211 in this tumor group. These findings indicate that MDM4 alterations are a frequent event in PTC. It is worthy to note that the significant downregulation of full-length MDM4 in PTC reveals a novel status of this factor in human cancer that counsels careful evaluation of its role in human tumorigenesis and of its potential as therapeutic target.
MDM4; MDM2; Thyroid carcinoma; MDM4 variants; p53
The gene TP53, encoding transcription factor p53, is mutated or deleted in half of human cancers, demonstrating the crucial role of p53 in tumor suppression. Importantly, p53 inactivation in cancers can also result from the amplification / overexpression of its specific inhibitors MDM2 and MDM4 (also known as MDMX). The presence of wild-type p53 in those tumors with MDM2 or MDM4 overexpression stimulates the search for new therapeutic agents to selectively reactivate it. This short survey highlights recent insights into MDM2 and MDM4 regulatory functions and their implications for the design of future p53-based anticancer strategies. We now know that MDM2 and MDM4 inhibit p53 in distinct and complementary ways: MDM4 regulates p53 activity, while MDM2 mainly regulates p53 stability. Upon DNA damage, MDM2-dependent degradation of itself and MDM4 contribute significantly to p53 stabilization and activation. These and other data imply that the combined use of MDM2 and MDM4 antagonists in cancer cells expressing wild type p53 should activate p53 more significantly than agents that only antagonize MDM2, resulting in more effective anti-tumor activity.
MDM2; MDM4; MDMX; p53
The activity of the tumor suppressor p53 is tightly controlled by its main negative regulator, Mdm2, which inhibits p53's transcriptional activity and targets it for degradation via the proteasome pathway. The closely related Mdm2 homolog, MdmX, is also considered to be a general inhibitor of transactivation by p53, through binding to the p53 activation domain. We show here that, unexpectedly, upon DNA damage and ribosomal stress, MdmX plays a positive role in p53-mediated activation of the Mdm2 gene, but not of numerous other p53 target genes including p21. Downregulation of MdmX results in lower levels of mature and nascent Mdm2 transcripts following cellular stress. This correlates with a longer p53 half-life following DNA damage. In vitro, Mdm2 inhibits the binding of p53 to DNA to a much greater extent than does MdmX, although MdmX does not stimulate p53 interaction with Mdm2 promoter DNA. Strikingly, however, MdmX is required for optimal p53 binding to the Mdm2 promoter in vivo. Thus, we have described a new mechanism by which MdmX can suppress p53, which is through transcriptional activation of p53's principal negative regulator, Mdm2.
Both p53 and Mdmx are ubiquitinated and degraded by the same E3 ligase Mdm2; interestingly, however, while p53 is rapidly degraded by Mdm2, Mdmx is a stable protein in most of cancer cells. Thus, the mechanism by which Mdmx is degraded by Mdm2 needs further elucidation. Here, we identified the noncoding 5S rRNA as a major component of Mdmx-associated complexes from human cells. We show that 5S rRNA acts as a natural inhibitor of Mdmx degradation by Mdm2. RNAi-mediated knockdown of endogenous 5S rRNA, while not affecting p53 levels, significantly induces Mdmx degradation and subsequently, activates p53-dependent growth arrest. Notably, 5S rRNA binds the RING domain of Mdmx and blocks its ubiquitination by Mdm2 whereas Mdm2-mediated p53 ubiquitination remains intact. These results provide insights into the differential effects on p53 and Mdmx by Mdm2 in vivo and reveal an critical role of noncoding 5S rRNA in modulating the p53-Mdmx axis.
5S rRNA; Non-coding small RNA; Mdm2; Mdmx; p53; HAUSP; Ubiquitination; Deubiquitination
Classically, p53 is considered to be an overarching tumor suppressor gene, important in its role as a transcription factor for a number of genes critical for cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, and senescence. More recently, the scope of p53 function has been further broadened, with evidence emerging that supports essential roles for p53 in reproduction and metabolism. The homologous proteins Mdm2 and MdmX function as the primary negative regulators of p53 stability and activity. Canonically, Mdm2 is thought to regulate p53 through 2 mechanisms: 1) through directly binding the p53 transactivation domain, suppressing p53 activity, and 2) through functioning as an E3 ubiquitin ligase capable of ubiquitinating p53, targeting it for nuclear export and degradation. MdmX similarly functions to bind the p53 transactivation domain; however, it is not characterized to harbor any intrinsic E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. Despite extensive study, the advent of a number of mouse models has brought to light the necessity of studying the p53 pathway at physiological levels and emphasized the major differences that can exist between in vitro and in vivo analysis. While many questions remain, a focus on the use of in vivo models in p53 study is providing a clearer view of how this pathway is regulated, with a newfound emphasis on the role of the Mdm2:MdmX heterodimer, and with that a better understanding of how this pathway could be better manipulated for therapeutic gains.
Mdm2; MdmX; p53; E3 ubiquitin ligase; mouse models
The activities of p53 cover diverse aspects of cell biology, including cell cycle control, apoptosis, metabolism, fertility, differentiation and cellular reprogramming. Although loss of p53 function engenders tumor susceptibility, hyperactivation of p53 is lethal. Therefore, p53 activity must be strictly regulated to maintain normal tissue homeostasis. Critical for the control of p53 function are its two main negative regulators: Mdm2 and Mdmx. Recent reports have provided insight into the complex mechanisms that regulate these two proteins and have revealed novel functions for each. Here, we review and evaluate models of Mdm2- and Mdmx-dependent regulation of p53 activity. Both Mdm2 and Mdmx receive input from numerous signaling pathways and interact with many proteins in addition to p53. Therefore, we also consider roles for Mdm2 and Mdmx in additional cancer-related networks, including Notch signaling and the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.
MDM2 associates with ribosomal protein S7 and this interaction is required to inhibit MDM2’s E3 ligase activity leading to stabilization of MDM2 and p53. Notably, the MDM2 homologue MDMX facilitates the inhibition of MDM2 E3 ligase activity by S7. Further, ablation of S7 inhibits MDM2 and p53 accumulation induced by different stress signals in some cell types. Thus, ribosomal/nucleolar stress is likely a key integrating event in DNA damage signaling to p53. Interestingly, S7 is itself a substrate for MDM2 E3 ligase activity both in vitro and in vivo. An S7-ubiquitin fusion protein (S7-Ub) selectively inhibits Mdm2 degradation of p53 and is unaffected by MDMX. S7-Ub promotes apoptosis to a greater extent than S7 alone. This indicates that MDM2 ubiquitination of S7 is involved in sustaining the p53 response. Thus, S7 functions as both effector and affector of MDM2 to ensure a proper cellular response to different stress signals.
Genomic and proteomic profiling of human tumor samples and tumor-derived cell lines are essential for the realization of personalized therapy in oncology. Identification of the changes required for tumor initiation or maintenance will likely provide new targets for small molecule and biologic therapeutics. For example, inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway occurs in most human cancers. While this can be due to frank p53 gene mutation, almost half of all cancers retain the wild type p53 allele, indicating the pathway is disabled by other means. Alternate mechanisms include deletion or epigenetic inactivation of the p53 positive regulator, arf, methylation of the p53 promoter or elevated expression of the p53 regulators Mdm2 and Mdmx. This review discusses current models of p53 regulation by Mdm2 and Mdmx, and presents the rationale for design of future Mdmx-specific therapeutics based on our knowledge of its structure and biological functions. For simplicity, we use Mdmx throughout this review although the protein is also known as Mdm4 in mouse and Hdmx/Hdm4 in humans. A more detailed discussion of Mdm2 as an oncogene and as a target for chemotherapy can be found elsewhere (1-4).