The promyelocytic leukemia protein protects p53 from Mdm2-mediated inhibition and degradation.
The p53 protein is kept labile under normal conditions. This regulation is governed largely by its major negative regulator, Mdm2. In response to stress however, p53 accumulates and becomes activated. For this to occur, the inhibitory effects of Mdm2 have to be neutralized. Here we investigated the role of the promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML) in the activation of p53 in response to stress. We found that PML is critical for the accumulation of p53 in response to DNA damage under physiological conditions. PML protects p53 from Mdm2-mediated ubiquitination and degradation, and from inhibition of apoptosis. PML neutralizes the inhibitory effects of Mdm2 by prolonging the stress-induced phosphorylation of p53 on serine 20, a site of the checkpoint kinase 2 (Chk2). PML recruits Chk2 and p53 into the PML nuclear bodies and enhances p53/Chk2 interaction. Our results provide a novel mechanistic explanation for the cooperation between PML and p53 in response to DNA damage.