Hdm2 and HdmX coordinately regulate the stability and function of p53. Each is overexpressed in subsets of many different types of malignancy, and most of these subsets maintain wild-type p53. Nutlins, newly discovered small-molecule inhibitors of the Hdm2-p53 interaction, offer a novel strategy for therapy of tumors with wild-type p53. We now show that Nutlin-3 efficiently induces apoptosis and diminishes long-term survival of human fibroblasts transformed in vitro by Hdm2 but not HdmX. The resistance of cells overexpressing HdmX to Nutlin-3 is due to its inability to disrupt the p53-HdmX interaction, resulting in continued suppression of p53 activity. Although HdmX overexpression yielded cells resistant to Nutlin-3, ablation of HdmX expression by short hairpin RNA sensitized tumor cells to Nutlin-3-mediated cell death or arrest. Furthermore, deletion of the COOH-terminal RING finger domain of HdmX completely reversed the resistance to Nutlin-3, probably reflecting the requirement of the RING finger for interaction with Hdm2. Thus, the relative abundance of Hdm2 and HdmX and the specificity of Nutlin-3 for Hdm2 influence the sensitivity of cells to p53-dependent apoptosis or arrest in response to Nutlin-3. Our findings establish Hdm2 and HdmX as independent therapeutic targets with respect to reactivating wild-type p53 as a means for cancer therapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research