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The p53 tumour suppressor gene is a transcription factor that can induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. In response to various stress-inducing signals, p53 level increases and this is accompanied with increased activities of p53. Interestingly, the methylxanthine caffeine can abrogate the p53 accumulation induced by certain DNA-damaging agents by an unknown mechanism. In an effort to understand how different signals induce p53, human tumour cell lines were treated with combinations of various stress-inducing agents and caffeine. Caffeine inhibited the accumulation of p53 induced by leptomycin B (LMB), an inhibitor of CRM1, but not N-acetyl-leu-leu-norleucinal, a proteasome inhibitor. Furthermore, caffeine also inhibited the accumulation of p53 by a variety of stress-inducing agents in vivo, such as 5-fluorouracil, doxorubicin, mitomycin C, camptothecin and roscovitine. However, caffeine failed to affect the accumulation of p53 in hypoxia (HYP)-treated cells. These results suggested that HYP must use a distinct pathway from most DNA-damaging and stress-inducing agents to induce p53.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1177 - 1182


Antineoplastic Agents, Caffeine, Cell Nucleus, Central Nervous System Stimulants, DNA, DNA Damage, Humans, Hypoxia, Nuclear Proteins, Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2, Signal Transduction, Stress, Physiological, Tumor Cells, Cultured, Tumor Suppressor Protein p53