Characterization and expression pattern of p53 during spermatogenesis in the Chinese mitten crab Eriocheir sinensis
Active p53 stimulates the transcription of a number of key genes, including the pro-apoptotic gene bax, as well as p21, a cell cycle regulator. In this study we constructed novel chimeric zinc finger-p53 DNA binding domain (DBD) transcription factors designed to bind to the promoters of specific p53 regulated genes. In order to selectively increase the expression of Bax, we coupled a pre-selected three-zinc finger (Zif) peptide targeted to a sequence in the bax promoter to a minimal p53 DBD. This chimeric protein could increase reporter gene transcription from a minimal bax promoter (up to 10-fold) but not from a minimal p21 promoter in p53-deficient Saos-2 cells. However, fusion proteins carrying longer p53 DBDs displayed entirely different selectivity and potency. Thus, Zif-p53 DBD chimeras containing N- and C-terminal extensions of the minimal DBD could increase transcription driven by a minimal p21 promoter up to 800-fold. These chimeras preferred the minimal p21 promoter up to 500-fold over the minimal bax promoter. Additionally, endogenous p21 message and protein levels were increased in cells expressing the p21 selective Zif-p53 DBD chimera and expression of the chimeric proteins resulted in partial cell cycle arrest. Cell fractionation experiments indicated that the Zifs enhanced nuclear localization of the Zif-p53 DBD chimera. These studies suggest that it is possible to create chimeric transcription factors able to strongly and selectively activate genes downstream of p53.