The physical and functional interaction between the transcription factor p53 and its negative regulatory partner protein Hdm2 (Mdm2 in mouse) is a key point of convergence of multiple signaling pathways that regulates cell proliferation and survival. hdm2 mRNA transcription is induced by p53, forming the basis of an auto-regulatory feedback loop. Growth and survival factor-activated Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK signaling can also regulate Hdm2 expression independently of p53, contributing to the pro-survival effect of these factors. In murine fibroblasts, this occurs through the regulation of mdm2 mRNA transcription. Here we show that, in human breast cancer epithelial cells, MEK-dependent regulation of Hdm2 expression also occurs at a post-transcriptional level. Pharmacological blockade of MEK activity in T47D cells inhibits Hdm2 protein synthesis by 80–90%. This occurs in the absence of changes in the expression of the major hdm2-P1 mRNA transcript and only an 40% reduction in hdm2-P2 transcript levels. The amounts of both transcripts that are associated with polyribosomes and are, hence, being actively translated are reduced by >80% by the MEK inhibitor, U0126. We show here that this is due to the inhibition of hdm2 mRNA export from the nucleus when MEK activity is inhibited. In MCF-7 breast cancer cells that express wild-type p53, Hdm2 is required to suppress p53-dependent transcription when MEK kinase is active. Regulation of the nuclear export of hdm2 mRNA provides, therefore, a mechanism whereby mitogen-stimulated cells avoid p53-dependent cell cycle arrest or apoptosis by maintaining the dynamic equilibrium of the Hdm2-p53 feedback loop
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