Tumor suppressor p53 and its gain-of-function mutants in cancer

Juan Liu, Cen Zhang, Zhaohui Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Tumor suppressor p53 plays a pivotal role in tumor suppression. p53 is the most frequently mutated gene in cancer. As a transcription factor, p53 mainly exerts its role in tumor suppression through transcriptional regulation of its downstream target genes. Thus, p53 and its target genes form a complex p53 signaling pathway to regulate a wide variety of biological processes to prevent tumorigenesis. Recent studies have revealed that in addition to apoptosis, cell cycle arrest and senescence, p53's functions in the regulation of energy metabolism and anti-oxidant defense contribute significantly to its role in tumor suppression. Studies further show that many tumor-associated mutant p53 proteins not only lose tumor suppressive functions of wild-type p53, but also gain new oncogenic activities that are independent of wild-type p53, including promoting tumor cell proliferation, survival, metabolic changes, angiogenesis, and metastasis, which are defined as mutant p53 gain-of-function. The frequent loss of wild-type p53 function and the gain-of-function of mutant p53 in human tumors make p53 an extremely attractive target for cancer therapy. Different strategies and many small-molecule drugs are being developed for the p53-based tumor therapy. Here, we review the mechanisms of p53 in tumor suppression and gain-of-function mutant p53 in tumor development, as well as the recent advances in the development of the p53-based tumor therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-179
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biochimica et Biophysica Sinica
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


  • gain-of-function
  • mutant p53
  • p53
  • tumor suppressor
  • tumor therapy


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