Exonucleolytic degradation of RNA by p53 protein in cytoplasm

Mary Bakhanashvili, Rachel Gedelovich, Shai Grinberg, Galia Rahav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


p53 in cytoplasm displays an intrinsic 3′→5′ exonuclease activity. To understand the significance of p53 exonuclease activity in cytoplasm, cytoplasmic extracts of various cell lines were examined for exonuclease activity with different single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) substrates. Using an in vitro RNA degradation assay, we observed in cytoplasmic extracts of LCC2 cells, expressing high levels of endogenous wtp53, an efficient 3′→5′ exonuclease activity with RNA substrates, removing the 3′-terminal nucleotides. Interestingly, RNA containing AU-rich sequences (ARE) is the permissive substrate for exonucleolytic degradation. Evidence that exonuclease function with RNA detected in cytoplasmic extracts is attributed to the p53 is supported by several facts: (1) this activity closely parallels with status and levels of endogenous cytoplasmic p53; (2) the endogenous exonuclease exerts identical RNA substrate specificity and excision profile characteristic for purified baculovirus-or bacterially-expressed wtp53s; (3) the exonuclease activity with ARE RNA is competed out by the presence of ss or double-stranded DNA substrate utilized by p53 protein in cytoplasm; (4) immunoprecipitation by specific anti-p53 antibodies markedly reduced the exonuclease activity with both RNA and DNA substrates; and (5) transfection of the wtp53, but not exonuclease-deficient mutant p53-R175H, into p53-null H1299 or HCT116 cells induced high levels of exonuclease activity with ARE RNA substrate in cytoplasm with characteristic excision profile. The efficient ARE RNA degradation correlates with the efficient binding of p53 to ARE RNA in cytoplasm. The possible role of p53 exonuclease activity in ARE-mRNA destabilization in cytoplasm, which may be important for expression of proteins that control cell growth and/or apoptosis is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-88
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • 3′→5′ exonuclease
  • RNA binding protein
  • p53 protein


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