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p53 as a hub in cellular redox regulation and therapeutic target in cancer Free
Sofi E. Eriksson, Sophia Ceder, Vladimir J.N. Bykov, and Klas G. Wiman *
Karolinska Institutet, Department of Oncology-Pathology, BioClinicum, Stockholm, Sweden
*Correspondence to:Klas Wiman, E-mail:
J Mol Cell Biol, Volume 11, Issue 4, April 2019, 330-341,
Keyword: p53, redox regulation, mutation, oxidative stress, Nrf2, thiols, cancer therapy

The TP53 tumor suppressor gene encodes a DNA-binding transcription factor that regulates multiple cellular processes including cell growth and cell death. The ability of p53 to bind to DNA and activate transcription is tightly regulated by post-translational modifications and is dependent on a reducing cellular environment. Some p53 transcriptional target genes are involved in regulation of the cellular redox homeostasis, e.g. TIGAR and GLS2. A large fraction of human tumors carry TP53 mutations, most commonly missense mutations that lead to single amino acid substitutions in the core domain. Mutant p53 proteins can acquire so called gain-of-function activities and influence the cellular redox balance in various ways, for instance by binding of the Nrf2 transcription factor, a major regulator of cellular redox state. The DNA-binding core domain of p53 has 10 cysteine residues, three of which participate in holding a zinc atom that is critical for p53 structure and function. Several novel compounds that refold and reactivate missense mutant p53 bind to specific p53 cysteine residues. These compounds can also react with other thiols and target components of the cellular redox system, such as glutathione. Dual targeting of mutant p53 and redox homeostasis may allow more efficient treatment of cancer.