The tumour suppressor protein p53 may have a previously unappreciated role in the processing of microRNAs (miRNAs, small RNA molecules that influence gene expression). The finding, reported in Nature, has implications for cancer biology and drug development.
p53 is best known for its role as a transcription factor - a protein that enhances the production of RNA or 'transcription' - and as a tumour suppressor. Disruption of p53 is a fundamental event in the development of most cancers. Kohei Miyazono and colleagues link p53 with the maturation of miRNAs, thereby showing that it can affect gene expression indirectly. The team shows that, when DNA is damaged, p53 enhances post-transcriptional maturation of several miRNAs with known growth-suppressing functions.
The results suggest that p53 may act as a global modifier of gene expression through the regulation of miRNA processing. It is hoped that drugs designed to target p53 and miRNA pathways may prove useful therapeutically.
Kohei Miyazono (University of Tokyo, Japan)
Franck Toledo (Institut Curie, Paris, France) N&V author
(C) Nature press release.
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