Research Perspectives:

A microRNA-dependent circuit controlling p63/p73 homeostasis: p53 family cross-talk meets therapeutic opportunity

Benjamin Ory and Leif W. Ellisen _

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Oncotarget. 2011; 2:259-264. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.244

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Benjamin Ory and Leif W. Ellisen

*Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA

Received: March 9, 2011; Accepted: March 23, 2011; Published: March 23, 2011;

Keywords: p63, p73, microRNA, apoptosis, cisplatin, squamous cell carcinoma, triple-negative breast cancer, chemosensitivity


Leif W. Ellisen, e-mail:


The p53 family transcription factors p53, p63 and p73 make diverse contributions in development and cancer. Mutation or deletion of p53 is observed in the majority of human cancers. In contrast, p63 and p73 are not lost in cancer but mediate distinct genetic roles in normal and tumor-specific contexts: p73 promotes genome stability and mediates chemosensitivity, while p63 largely lacks these p53-like functions and instead promotes proliferation and cell survival. We recently uncovered a mechanism which maintains p63/p73 homeostasis within the epithelium through direct transcriptional regulation of microRNAs (miRs). We discovered that several of the top p63-regulated miRs target p73 for inhibition, including miR-193a-5p, a direct p63/p73 transcriptional target which is repressed by p63 and activated by p73 both in vitro and in vivo. The resulting feed-forward circuit involving p63, miR-193a-5p and p73 controls p73 levels, cell viability and DNA damage susceptibility in certain cancers including squamous cell carcinoma. Here, we discuss the evolutionary implications of this regulatory circuit, which may point to a general mechanism of miR-mediated cross-talk within transcription factor gene families. Additionally, we suggest that inducible chemoresistance mediated by this miR-dependent mechanism might be an attractive target for therapeutic intervention.

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