To study the mechanism of p53 involvement in malignant transformation, we compared the tumor development patterns induced by a parental p53 nonproducer pre-B cell line with those by cell lines generated from this parental cell line following transfection of either wild type or mutant p53. It was found that whereas mutant p53 facilitated tumor development, expression of wild type p53 restrained tumor development. Cell lines expressing the wild type p53 induced the development of faster regressing tumors than the parental cell line. The parental p53 nonproducer and the wild type p53 producer regressor tumors underwent in vivo cell differentiation, manifested as IgG production. Mutant p53, producer cell lines, on the other hand, failed to show any immunoglobulin synthesis and gave rise to highly proliferative lethal tumors. Our results support the conclusion that these pre-B cells develop regressor tumors because they have undergone differentiation. Whereas the wild type p53 facilitates this differentiation, mutant p53 cells block it. We suggest that, in addition to inactivating the growth-suppressive activity of wild type p53, the expression of mutant p53 facilitates malignant transformation.

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This work was supported in part by grants from the Leo and Julia Forchheimer Center for Molecular Genetics, and from the Ebner Foundation at the Weizmann Institute of Science. V. R. holds the Norman and Helen Asher Professorial Chair in Cancer Research and a Career Development Award from the Israel Cancer Research Fund.

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