Alessandro Rufini, Massimiliano Agostini, Francesca Grespi, Richard Tomasini, Berna S. Sayan, Maria Victoria Niklison-Chirou, Franco Conforti, Tania Velletri, Antonio Mastino, Tak W. Mak, Gerry Melino and Richard A. Knight

Genes & Cancer 2(4) 2011 491–502


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p73 is a tumor suppressor belonging to the p53 family of transcription factors. Distinct isoforms are transcribed from the p73 locus. The use of 2 promoters at the N-terminus allows the expression of an isoform containing (TAp73) or not containing (ΔNp73) a complete N-terminal transactivation domain, with the latter isoform capable of a dominant negative effect over the former. In addition, both N-terminal variants are alternatively spliced at the C-terminus. TAp73 is a bona fide tumor suppressor, being able to induce cell death and cell cycle arrest; conversely, ΔNp73 shows oncogenic properties, inhibiting TAp73 and p53 functions. Here, we discuss the latest findings linking p73 to cancer. The generation of isoform specific null mice has helped in dissecting the contribution of TA versus ΔNp73 isoforms to tumorigenesis. The activity of both isoforms is regulated transcriptionally and by posttranslational modification. p73 dysfunction, particularly of TAp73, has been associated with mitotic abnormalities, which may lead to polyploidy and aneuploidy and thus contribute to tumorigenesis. Although p73 is only rarely mutated in cancer, the tumor suppressor actions of TAp73 are inhibited by mutant p53, a finding that has important implications for cancer therapy. Finally, we discuss the expression and role of p73 isoforms in human cancer, with a particular emphasis on the neuroblastoma cancer model. Broadly, the data support the hypothesis that the ratio between TAp73 and ΔNp73 is crucial for tumor progression and therapeutic response.


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