Mono- Versus Polyubiquitination: Differential Control of p53 Fate by Mdm2

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Science  12 Dec 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5652, pp. 1972-1975
DOI: 10.1126/science.1091362

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Although Mdm2-mediated ubiquitination is essential for both degradation and nuclear export of p53, the molecular basis for the differential effects of Mdm2 remains unknown. Here we show that low levels of Mdm2 activity induce monoubiquitination and nuclear export of p53, whereas high levels promote p53's polyubiquitination and nuclear degradation. A p53-ubiquitin fusion protein that mimics monoubiquitinated p53 was found to accumulate in the cytoplasm in an Mdm2-independent manner, indicating that monoubiquitination is critical for p53 trafficking. These results clarify the nature of ubiquitination-mediated p53 regulation and suggest that distinct mechanisms regulate p53 function in accordance with the levels of Mdm2 activity.

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