A form of the well-known protein, p53, appears to promote brain nerve fibre regeneration in a mouse model. Simone Di Giovanni and colleagues, publishing in the EMBO Journal, believe this could encourage new routes in the search for treatments for disorders such as spinal cord injury, brain trauma or possibly Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Since its discovery in 1979, mutations in the tumour suppressor protein, p53, have been described in a huge variety of human malignancies. In intact cells, p53 senses damage and controls the general fate of the cell in response to these environmental inputs. It is this special function that researchers all over the world try to restore in the quest to cure cancer.
Searching for the regulatory mechanisms of proteins known to be crucial for regeneration and recovery of cells within the brain, the team identified control regions, which could be recognised by p53. They then showed that p53 does indeed bind to these control elements and regulate the activity of corresponding proteins, thereby contributing to nerve cell outgrowth and axonal, or nerve fibre regeneration. They report, however, that only a specific form, namely lysine 320-acetylated p53, was able to exert this function.
Important information is still missing, for instance, how is this particular modification of p53 induced, or which of the known p53 modifying enzymes is employed here? The news does, however, open unexpected directions for possible therapeutic interventions after peripheral or central nervous system injuries.
Simone Di Giovanni (Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, Tuebingen, Germany)
Thomas Schwarz-Romond (EMBO, Heidelberg, Germany)
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza