p53-Dependent and independent expression of p21 during cell growth, differentiation, and DNA damage

Kay F. Macleod, Nicole Sherry, Greg Hannon, David Beach, Takashi Tokino, Kenneth Kinzler, Bert Vogelstein, Tyler Jacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

708 Scopus citations


Expression of p21 has been shown to be up-regulated by the p53 tumor suppressor gene in vitro in response to DNA-damaging agents. However, p21 expression can be regulated independently of p53, and here we show that expression of p21 in various tissues during development and in the adult mouse occurs in the absence of p53 function. However, most tissues tested did require p53 for p21 induction following exposure of the whole animal to γ irradiation. These results show that normal tissue expression of p21 to high levels is not dependent on p53 and confirm that induction of p21 by DNA- damaging agents does require p53. p21 is expressed upon differentiation of p53-deficient murine erythroleukemia (MEL) cells, and the kinetics of induction of p21 in this system suggest that it may be involved in the growth arrest that precedes terminal differentiation. The gene is up-regulated in mouse fibroblasts in response to serum restimulation but the kinetics and levels of induction differ between wild-type and mutant cells. Expression of p21 message following serum restimulation is superinducible by cycloheximide in wild-type but not in p53-deficient cells. The increases in p21 mRNA are reflected in changes in p21 protein levels. p21 expression also appears to be regulated at the post-transcriptional level because moderate increases in mRNA expression, during differentiation of MEL cells and upon serum restimulation of fibroblasts, are followed by large increases in protein levels. Regulation of the mouse p21 promoter by p53 depends on two critical p53-binding sites located 1.95 and 2.85 kb upstream from the transcriptional initiation site. The sequences mediating serum responsiveness of the promoter map to a region containing the proximal p53 site. p53 appears to play a critical role in p21 induction following DNA damage. Moreover, p21 can be regulated independently of p53 in several situations including during normal tissue development, following serum stimulation, and during cellular differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)935-944
Number of pages10
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 1995


  • DNA damage
  • cellular differentiation
  • p21
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


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