ERKs and p38 kinase phosphorylate p53 protein at serine 15 in response to UV radiation

Qing Bai She, Nanyue Chen, Zigang Dong

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286 Scopus citations


Phosphorylation of the p53 tumor suppressor protein is likely to play an important role in regulating its activity. Serine 15 phosphorylation of p53 leads to a stabilization of p53 by reducing its interaction with murine double minute 2, a negative regulatory partner. Recently, p53 was reported to be activated and phosphorylated at serine 15 following UV radiation. However, the signaling pathway that mediates UV-induced phosphorylation is less well characterized. Here, we provide evidence that UVB-induced phosphorylation of p53 at serine 15 is mediated directly by ERKs and p38 kinase. We find that in a mouse JB6 epidermal cell line, ERKs and p38 kinase form a complex with p53 following UVB radiation. Inhibition of ERKs or p38 kinase activity by the use of a dominant negative mutant of ERK2 or p38 kinase or their respective specific inhibitor, PD98059 or SB202190, results in abrogation of UVB-induced phosphorylation of p53 at serine 15. Strikingly, incubation of UVB-activated ERKs or p38 kinase immunoprecipitated complex with exogenous p53 shows serine 15 phosphorylation of both exogenous and co-precipitated endogenous p53 protein. Additionally, active recombinant ERK1/2 and p38 kinase but not JNKs are also able to phosphorylate p53 at serine 15 in vitro. Furthermore, pretreatment of cells with PD98059 or SB202190 blocks p53-dependent transcription activity but increases the level of p53 co-precipitated murine double minute. These results strongly suggest that both ERKs and p38 kinase have a direct role in UVB-induced phosphorylation of p53 at serine 15 in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20444-20449
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 7 2000


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