It has been shown that the expression of osteoprotegerin (OPG) is up-regulated in tumor-associated endothelial cells as well as in the sera of patients affected by both solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. We now report that sera of p53-/- mice contain higher levels of OPG with respect to p53+/+ mice and that endothelial cells, in which p53 was knocked down by siRNA, release increased levels of OPG with respect to mock-transfected cells. Conversely, activation of the p53 pathway by the MDM2 small molecule antagonist Nutlin-3 significantly attenuated both spontaneous and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α)-induced OPG mRNA and protein release in endothelial cell cultures. OPG promoter functional assays and chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments revealed inhibitory effects of Nutlin-3 on the TNF-α-induced NF-κB DNA binding activity to the OPG promoter. Because OPG inhibits the protumoricidal activity of TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, our findings suggest that, besides its well-documented functions within the malignant cancer cells, the ability of p53 to down-modulate OPG production by endothelial cells may be an additional important mechanism whereby it exerts non-cell-autonomous tumor suppression function.
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