Dundee breakthrough in p53 cancer research

Scientists at the University of Dundee have made a significant breakthrough in understanding the activity of the p53 tumour suppressor, one of the most important molecules in cancer research.

The p53 protein was discovered by Professor Sir David Lane, formerly of the University of Dundee, and is one of the most widely studied factors in cancer research due to its role in a wide variety of cancers. Studies of p53, dating to its discovery in 1979 and its identification as a tumour suppressor ten years later, represent some of the most important contributions to current understanding of the molecular and genetic events that occur in cancer.

Now a team at Dundee led by Dr David Meek in the Medical Research Institute has discovered new details of how the protein works.

The p53 protein displays many mechanisms of anti-cancer function, including activation of DNA repair proteins, activation of cell cycle check-points (which block a potential cancer cell's ability to grow and multiply), and initiation of apoptosis or programmed cell death (which ultimately eliminates the cancer cell).

Dr Meek’s team were particularly interested in the role it played in a particular part of p53serine 15 or ser15 - where it modifies the protein’s activities and functions. Phosphorylation of serine 15 in the p53 protein was first described in 1992, but the precise role of that modification in modifying p53's activities and functions has not been well understood. In their research, published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research (NAR), Dr Meek and colleagues have shown two advances in understanding.

Read a full press release on the University of Dundee website.