Chao, C., M. Hergenhahn, M. D. Kaeser, Z. Wu, S. Saito, R. Iggo, M. Hollstein, E. Appella, and Y. Xu (2003) J Biol Chem 278:41028-41033.
Cell type- and promoter-specific roles of Ser18 phosphorylation in regulating p53 responses
Phosphorylation of mouse p53 at Ser18 occurs after DNA damage. To determine the physiological roles of this phosphorylation event in p53-dependent DNA damage responses, a Ser18 to Ala missense mutation was introduced into the germline of mice. Thymocytes and fibroblasts from the knock-in mice show reduced transactivation of many p53 target genes following DNA damage. p53 protein stabilization and DNA binding are similar in knock-in and wild type mice, but C-terminal acetylation was defective, consistent with a role for Ser18 in the recruitment of transcriptional co-activators. The apoptotic response of knock-in thymocytes to ionizing radiation is intermediate between that of wild type and p53 null thymocytes. Despite impaired transcriptional and apoptotic responses, the knock-in mice are not prone to spontaneous tumorigenesis. This indicates that neither phosphorylation of p53 on Ser18 by ATM nor a full transcriptional response is essential to prevent spontaneous tumor formation in mice.
Sluss, H. K., H. Armata, J. Gallant, and S. N. Jones (2004) Mol Cell Biol 24:976-984.
Phosphorylation of Serine 18 Regulates Distinct p53 Functions in Mice
The p53 protein acts a tumor suppressor by inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in response to DNA damage or oncogene activation. Recently, it has been proposed that phosphorylation of serine 15 in human p53 by ATM (mutated in ataxia telangiectasia) kinase induces p53 activity by interfering with the Mdm2-p53 complex formation and inhibiting Mdm2-mediated destabilization of p53. Serine 18 in murine p53 has been implicated in mediating an ATM- and ataxia telangiectasia-related kinase-dependent growth arrest. To explore further the physiological significance of phosphorylation of p53 on Ser18, we generated mice bearing a serine-to-alanine mutation in p53. Analysis of apoptosis in thymocytes and splenocytes following DNA damage revealed that phosphorylation of serine 18 was required for robust p53-mediated apoptosis. Surprisingly, p53Ser18 phosphorylation did not alter the proliferation rate of embryonic fibroblasts or the p53-mediated G(1) arrest induced by DNA damage. In addition, endogenous basal levels and DNA damage-induced levels of p53 were not affected by p53Ser18 phosphorylation. p53Ala18 mice developed normally and were not susceptible to spontaneous tumorigenesis, and the reduced apoptotic function of p53Ala18 did not rescue the embryo-lethal phenotype of Mdm2-null mice. These results indicate that phosphorylation of the ATM target site on p53 specifically regulates p53 apoptotic function and further reveal that phosphorylation of p53 serine 18 is not required for p53-mediated tumor suppression.