Basal dynamics of p53 reveals transcriptionally attenuated pulses in cycling cells.

Alexander Loewer, Eric Batchelor, Giorgio Gaglia and Galit Lahav.
Cell 2010 July 9th.


A major tumor suppressor protein (p53) that defends the body against severe cancer also pulses with similar alarm in healthy dividing cells, presumably in response to the fleeting nicks and dings in the genome that occur as part of normal life. Known to many as the guardian of the genome, p53 protects the body against severe DNA damage by halting division or killing a potentially rogue cell, but healthy dividing cells are allowed to carry on.


The system appears to balance the need to respond to severe damage with a tolerance for low-level damage. Knowing the usual behavior of p53 in healthy dividing cells will help scientists understand what goes wrong with p53 in cancer and suggest new ways to treat it. The results also may support emerging evidence of p53’s role in aging and longevity. Finally, the approach of measuring basal dynamics in individual cells can be applied to other crucial molecular pathways of health and disease.

Dividing Cells

This movie of a time-lapse microscopy experiment shows spontaneous p53 pulses (green) as individual cells divide over 24h.

Damaged Cells

In this time-lapse movie taken over 24 hours, damaging radiation triggers simultaneous and repeated pulses of p53 in individual cells.