Gain-of-function mutant p53 activates small GTPase Rac1 through SUMOylation to promote tumor progression

Xuetian Yue, Cen Zhang, Yuhan Zhao, Juan Liu, Alan W. Lin, Victor M. Tan, Justin M. Drake, Lianxin Liu, Michael N. Boateng, Jun Li, Zhaohui Feng, Wenwei Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Tumor suppressor p53 is frequently mutated in human cancer. Mutant p53 often promotes tumor progression through gain-of-function (GOF) mechanisms. However, the mechanisms underlying mutant p53 GOF are not well understood. In this study, we found that mutant p53 activates small GTPase Rac1 as a critical mechanism for mutant p53 GOF to promote tumor progression. Mechanistically, mutant p53 interacts with Rac1 and inhibits its interaction with SUMO-specific protease 1 (SENP1), which in turn inhibits SENP1-mediated de-SUMOylation of Rac1 to activate Rac1. Targeting Rac1 signaling by RNAi, expression of the dominant-negative Rac1 (Rac1 DN), or the specific Rac1 inhibitor NSC23766 greatly inhibits mutant p53 GOF in promoting tumor growth and metastasis. Furthermore, mutant p53 expression is associated with enhanced Rac1 activity in clinical tumor samples. These results uncover a new mechanism for Rac1 activation in tumors and, most importantly, reveal that activation of Rac1 is an unidentified and critical mechanism for mutant p53 GOF in tumorigenesis, which could be targeted for therapy in tumors containing mutant p53.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1641-1654
Number of pages14
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


  • Gain of function
  • Metastasis
  • Mutant p53
  • Rac1
  • Sumoylation
  • Tumorigenesis


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