Exonucleolytic proofreading by p53 protein

Mary Bakhanashvili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The tumour suppressor p53 protein plays an important role in maintaining genetic integrity. Recently, p53 was shown to have an intrinsic 3′→5′ exonuclease activity. The current study has extended the characterization of purified wild-type recombinant p53-associated 3′→5′ exonuclease function to demonstrate proofreading activity. p53-associated 3′→5′ exonuclease shows clear preference for degradation of ssDNA over dsDNA substrate. On partial duplex structures, this exonucleolytic activity displays a marked preference for excision of a mismatched vs. a correctly paired 30 terminus which enables the p53 protein to act as a proofreader. However, p53 displays variation in excision of mismatched base pairs. The results demonstrate that p53 exhibits mispair excision with a specificity of A:A > A:G > A:C opposite the template adenine residue and with a specificity of G:A > G:G > G:T opposite the template guanine residue. Hence, the observed specificity of mismatch excision shows that p53 exonucleolytic proofreading preferentially repairs transversion mutations. As part of an investigation of the functional interaction between p53 and DNA polymerase, the influence of p53 on the accuracy of DNA synthesis was determined with exonuclease-deficient murine leukemia virus (MLV) reverse transcriptase (RT), representing a relatively low fidelity enzyme. Using an in vitro biochemical assay with 3′-terminal mismatch-containing DNA template primers, it was shown that wild-type recombinant p53 protein enhanced the DNA replication fidelity of MLV RT. A functional interaction between the exonuclease (p53) and polymerase (MLV RT) activities was observed; excision of mispairs by p53 was followed by further elongation onto correctly base-paired 3′-termini by MLV RT. Furthermore, the formation of 3′-mispair and subsequent mispair extension by the enzyme were decreased substantially in the presence of p53. The fact that the exonuclease-deficient MLV RT is more accurate in the presence of p53, suggests that p53 protein may function as an external proofreading exonuclease for viral enzyme. The observed decrease in initial nucleotide misincorpora-tion and 3′-terminal mispair extension by MLV RT in the presence of p53, indicates the mechanism by which p53 affects the DNA replication fidelity of exonuclease-deficient DNA polymerase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2047-2054
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • 3′→5′ exonuclease
  • DNA synthesis
  • Fidelity
  • Proofreading
  • p53


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