The ubiquitin ligase TRIM21 regulates mutant p53 accumulation and gain of function in cancer

Juan Liu, Cen Zhang, Dandan Xu, Tianliang Zhang, Chun Yuan Chang, Jianming Wang, Jie Liu, Lanjing Zhang, Bruce G. Haffty, Wei Xing Zong, Wenwei Hu, Zhaohui Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The tumor suppressor TP53 is the most frequently mutated gene in human cancers. Mutant p53 (mutp53) proteins often accumulate to very high levels in human cancers to promote cancer progression through the gain-of-function (GOF) mechanism. Currently, the mechanism underlying mutp53 accumulation and GOF is incompletely understood. Here, we identified TRIM21 as a critical E3 ubiquitin ligase of mutp53 by screening for specific mutp53-interacting proteins. TRIM21 directly interacted with mutp53 but not WT p53, resulting in ubiquitination and degradation of mutp53 to suppress mutp53 GOF in tumorigenesis. TRIM21 deficiency in cancer cells promoted mutp53 accumulation and GOF in tumorigenesis. Compared with p53R172H knockin mice, which displayed mutp53 accumulation specifically in tumors but not normal tissues, TRIM21 deletion in p53R172H knockin mice resulted in mutp53 accumulation in normal tissues, an earlier tumor onset, and a shortened life span of mice. Furthermore, TRIM21 was frequently downregulated in some human cancers, including colorectal and breast cancers, and low TRIM21 expression was associated with poor prognosis in patients with cancers carrying mutp53. Our results revealed a critical mechanism underlying mutp53 accumulation in cancers and also uncovered an important tumor-suppressive function of TRIM21 and its mechanism in cancers carrying mutp53.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere164354
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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