p53 is thought to function in the maintenance of genomic stability by modulating transcription and interacting with cellular proteins to influence the cell cycle, DNA repair and apoptosis. p53 mutations occur in >50% of human cancers, and cells which lack wild type p53 accumulate karyotypic abnormalities such as amplifications, deletions, inversions and translocations. We propose that p53 hinders these promiscuous recombinational events by interacting with cellular recombination and repair machinery. We recently reported that p53 can directly bind in vivo to human Rad51 (hRad51) protein and in vitro to its bacterial homologue RecA. We used GST-fusion and his-tagged protein systems to further investigate the physical interaction between p53 and hRad51, homologue of the yeast Rad51 protein that is involved in recombination and DNA double strand repair. The hRad51 binds to wild-type p53 and to a lesser extent, point mutants 135Y, 249S and 273H. This binding is not mediated by a DNA or RNA intermediate. Mapping studies using a panel of p53 deletion mutants indicate that hRad51 could bind to two regions of p53; one between amino acids 94 and 160 and a second between 264 and 315. Addition of anti-p53 antibody PAb421 (epitope 372-381 amino acids) inhibited the interaction with hRad51. In contrast, p53 interacts with the region between aa 125 and 220 of hRad51, which is highly conserved among Rad51 related proteins from bacteria to human. In Escherichia coli ecA protein, this region is required for homo-oligomerization, suggesting that p53 might disrupt the interaction between RecA and Rad51 subunits, thus inhibiting biochemical functions of Rad51 like proteins. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that p53 interaction with hRAD51 may influence DNA recombination and repair and that additional modifications of p53 by mutation and protein binding may affect this interaction
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