Retinoic acid activates p53 in human embryonal carcinoma through retinoid receptor-dependent stimulation of p53 transactivation function

Joshua C. Curtin, Konstantin H. Dragnev, David Sekula, Allison J. Christie, Ethan Dmitrovsky, Michael J. Spinella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although retinoids are known to regulate gene transcription by activating retinoid receptors, the targets of retinoid receptors are largely unknown. This study indicates effective all-trans retinoic acid (RA)-induced differentiation of human embryonal carcinoma cells engages p53. Unexpectedly, RA has been found to activate the transactivation function of p53 in the human embryonal carcinoma cell line, NT2/D1, in a retinoid receptor-dependent manner. A derived RA-resistant line, NT2/D1-R1, is deficient in this activity and is coresistant to cisplatin. This indicates that RA and cisplatin responses may share a common pathway involving p53 in embryonal carcinomas. RA has no effect on p53 steady-state protein levels in either line. RA enhances endogenous p53 transactivation activity in NT2/D1 but not NT2/D1-R1 cells. In addition, RA induces transactivation activity of a ga14-p53 fusion protein, suggesting that RA activates p53 independent of increasing p53 levels or sequence-specific DNA binding. This activity is absent in retinoic acid receptor γ (RARγ)-deficient NT2/D1-R1 cells but can be restored upon co-transfection with specific RARs. Transient transfection of a dominant-negative p53 construct in NT2/D1 cells blocks the RA-mediated transcriptional decline of a differentiation-sensitive reporter plasmid and enhances survival of NT2/D1 cells following cisplatin treatment. Taken together, these findings indicate that RA activates the intrinsic activation function of p53 by a novel mechanism independent of effects on p53 stability or DNA binding and that this activation may be a general mechanism that contributes to RA-mediated G1 arrest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2559-2569
Number of pages11
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 3 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Differentiation
  • Embryonal carcinoma
  • Retinoic acid
  • Teratocarcinoma
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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