DATABASES: Monitoring the Genome's Guardian

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Science  13 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5686, pp. 925
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5686.925d

The p53 protein prevents cells with marred DNA from dividing. But when the protein dubbed the “guardian of the genome” falters, tumors can sprout—about half of cancers carry errors in the p53 gene. A pair of databases in France lets you track these potentially disastrous genetic glitches.

Hosted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, this clearinghouse* profiles more than 20,000 sporadic and inherited p53 mutations reported in the literature. Users can find out how a specific mutation alters the DNA, its prevalence in different cancers, and other information. Entries also explain how more than 400 of these genetic flaws undermine the protein's function.

Along with a smaller mutation collection, this database from the Curie Institute in Paris offers a nice p53 primer. You can explore the structure of the p53 gene or read about the protein's discovery in 1979. Other tidbits include its possible role in development—which might entail sheltering the embryo from toxins.

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