Exposure to cellular stress can trigger the p53 tumor suppressor, a sequence-specific transcription factor, to induce cell growth arrest or apoptosis. The choice between these cellular responses is influenced by many factors, including the type of cell and stress, and the action of p53 co-activators. p53 stimulates a wide network of signals that act through two major apoptotic pathways. The extrinsic, death receptor pathway triggers the activation of a caspase cascade, and the intrinsic, mitochondrial pathway shifts the balance in the Bcl-2 family towards the pro-apoptotic members, promoting the formation of the apoptosome, and, consequently caspase-mediated apoptosis. The impact of these two apoptotic pathways may be enhanced when they converge through Bid, which is a p53 target. The majority of these apoptotic effects are mediated through the induction of specific apoptotic target genes. However, p53 can also promote apoptosis by a transcription-independent mechanism under certain conditions. Thus, a multitude of mechanisms are employed by p53 to ensure efficient induction of apoptosis in a stage-, tissue- and stress-signal-specific manner. Manipulation of the apoptotic functions of p53 constitutes an attractive target for cancer therapy.
- Transcriptional activation