Divergent Evolution of Human p53 Binding Sites: Cell Cycle Versus Apoptosis

Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, United States of America.
PLoS Genetics (Impact Factor: 8.17). 07/2007; 3(7):e127. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030127
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The p53 tumor suppressor is a sequence-specific pleiotropic transcription factor that coordinates cellular responses to DNA damage and stress, initiating cell-cycle arrest or triggering apoptosis. Although the human p53 binding site sequence (or response element [RE]) is well characterized, some genes have consensus-poor REs that are nevertheless both necessary and sufficient for transactivation by p53. Identification of new functional gene regulatory elements under these conditions is problematic, and evolutionary conservation is often employed. We evaluated the comparative genomics approach for assessing evolutionary conservation of putative binding sites by examining conservation of 83 experimentally validated human p53 REs against mouse, rat, rabbit, and dog genomes and detected pronounced conservation differences among p53 REs and p53-regulated pathways. Bona fide NRF2 (nuclear factor [erythroid-derived 2]-like 2 nuclear factor) and NFkappaB (nuclear factor of kappa light chain gene enhancer in B cells) binding sites, which direct oxidative stress and innate immunity responses, were used as controls, and both exhibited high interspecific conservation. Surprisingly, the average p53 RE was not significantly more conserved than background genomic sequence, and p53 REs in apoptosis genes as a group showed very little conservation. The common bioinformatics practice of filtering RE predictions by 80% rodent sequence identity would not only give a false positive rate of approximately 19%, but miss up to 57% of true p53 REs. Examination of interspecific DNA base substitutions as a function of position in the p53 consensus sequence reveals an unexpected excess of diversity in apoptosis-regulating REs versus cell-cycle controlling REs (rodent comparisons: p < 1.0 e-12). While some p53 REs show relatively high levels of conservation, REs in many genes such as BAX, FAS, PCNA, CASP6, SIVA1, and P53AIP1 show little if any homology to rodent sequences. This difference suggests that among mammalian species, evolutionary conservation differs among p53 REs, with some having ancient ancestry and others of more recent origin. Overall our results reveal divergent evolutionary pressure among the binding targets of p53 and emphasize that comparative genomics methods must be used judiciously and tailored to the evolutionary history of the targeted functional regulatory regions.

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