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Open Access Research article

Glycogen synthase kinase3 beta phosphorylates serine 33 of p53 and activates p53's transcriptional activity

Gaetan A Turenne and Brendan D Price*

Author affiliations

Department of Radiation Oncology, D810A, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, 44 Binney St, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2001, 2:12  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-2-12

Published: 16 July 2001

Abstract

Background

The p53 protein is activated by genotoxic stress, oncogene expression and during senescence, p53 transcriptionally activates genes involved in growth arrest and apoptosis. p53 activation is regulated by post-translational modification, including phosphorylation of the N-terminal transactivation domain. Here, we have examined how Glycogen Synthase Kinase (GSK3), a protein kinase involved in tumorigenesis, differentiation and apoptosis, phosphorylates and regulates p53.

Results

The 2 isoforms of GSK3, GSK3α and GSK3β, phosphorylate the sequence Ser-X-X-X-Ser(P) when the C-terminal serine residue is already phosphorylated. Several p53 kinases were examined for their ability to create GSK3 phosphorylation sites on the p53 protein. Our results demonstrate that phosphorylation of serine 37 of p53 by DNA-PK creates a site for GSK3β phosphorylation at serine 33 in vitro. GSK3α did not phosphorylate p53 under any condition. GSK3β increased the transcriptional activity of the p53 protein in vivo. Mutation of either serine 33 or serine 37 of p53 to alanine blocked the ability of GSK3β to regulate p53 transcriptional activity. GSK3β is therefore able to regulate p53 function in vivo. p53's transcriptional activity is commonly increased by DNA damage. However, GSK3β kinase activity was inhibited in response to DNA damage, suggesting that GSK3β regulation of p53 is not involved in the p53-DNA damage response.

Conclusions

GSK3β can regulate p53's transcriptional activity by phosphorylating serine 33. However, GSK3β does not appear to be part of the p53-DNA damage response pathway. Instead, GSK3β may provide the link between p53 and non-DNA damage mechanisms for p53 activation.