Role of MAP kinases in UVB-induced phosphorylation of p53 at serine 20

Qing Bai She, Wei Ya Ma, Zigang Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Phosphorylation of the p53 tumor suppressor protein is one of the key regulatory steps in its activation process. Serine 20 phosphorylation of p53 has been shown to be required for the activation of p53 following UV radiation, but the signaling pathway mediating UV-induced phosphorylation is unknown. Here, we determined the role of MAP kinases in UVB-induced phosphorylation and found that JNKs are directly involved in the phosphorylation of p53 at serine 20. In a mouse JB6 epidermal cell line, dominant negative JNK1 abrogated UVB-induced phosphorylation of p53 at serine 20, whereas dominant negative p38 kinase or its inhibitor, SB202190, partially attenuated the phosphorylation. In contrast, dominant negative ERK2 or the MEK1 inhibitor, PD98059, had no effect on p53 phosphorylation at serine 20. Importantly, UVB-activated or active recombinant JNK1/2, or the p38 kinase downstream target, MAPKAPK-2, but not ERKs or p38 kinase, phosphorylated p53 at serine 20 in vitro. Furthermore, phosphorylation of p53 at serine 20 by UVB-activated JNKs and UVB-induced p53-dependent transcriptional activity were suppressed in Jnk1 or Jnk2 knockout (Jnk1-/- or Jnk2-/-) cells. Additionally, Jnk1-/-, Jnk2-/-, and p53-deficient (p53-/-) cells, as well as re-introduction of a p53 mutant with substitution of serine 20 to alanine into p53-/- cells, were defective for UVB-induced apoptosis. These findings strongly suggest that JNKs are the major direct signaling mediators of UVB-induced p53 phosphorylation at serine 20.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1580-1589
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Feb 28 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr Ann M Bode for critical reading of the manuscript; Ms Andria Hansen for secretarial assistance; Dr Richard A Flavell for providing WT, Jnk17/7 and Jnk27/7mice; Dr Tyler Jacks for providing p53+/+ and p537/7 MEFs; and Dr Thanos D Halazonetis for providing wt p53 and mutant p53 S20A. This work was supported by The Hormel Foundation and National Institutes of Health grant CA 77646.


  • JNKs
  • Phosphorylation
  • UV radiation
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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