Interplay between endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and autophagy induces mutant p53H273 degradation

Alessia Garufi, Giulia Federici, Maria Saveria Gilardini Montani, Alessandra Crispini, Mara Cirone, Gabriella D’orazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The unfolded protein response (UPR) is an adaptive response to intrinsic and external stressors, and it is mainly activated by the accumulation of misfolded proteins at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) lumen producing ER stress. The UPR signaling network is interconnected with autophagy, the proteolytic machinery specifically devoted to clearing misfolded proteins in order to survive bioenergetic stress and/or induce cell death. Oncosuppressor TP53 may undergo inactivation following missense mutations within the DNA-binding domain (DBD), and mutant p53 (mutp53) proteins may acquire a misfolded conformation, often due to the loss of the DBD-bound zinc ion, leading to accumulation of hyperstable mutp53 proteins that correlates with more aggressive tumors, resistance to therapies, and poorer outcomes. We previously showed that zinc supplementation induces mutp53 protein degradation by autophagy. Here, we show that mutp53 (i.e., Arg273) degradation following zinc supplementation is correlated with activation of ER stress and of the IRE1α/XBPI arm of the UPR. ER stress inhibition with chemical chaperone 4-phenyl butyrate (PBA) impaired mutp53 downregulation, which is similar to IRE1α/XBPI specific inhibition, reducing cancer cell death. Knockdown of mutp53 failed to induce UPR/autophagy activation indicating that the effect of zinc on mutp53 folding was likely the key event occurring in ER stress activation. Recently discovered small molecules targeting components of the UPR show promise as a novel anticancer therapeutic intervention. However, our findings showing UPR activation during mutp53 degradation indicate that caution is necessary in the design of therapies that inhibit UPR components.

Original languageEnglish
Article number392
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • 4-PBA
  • Autophagy
  • Cancer therapy
  • Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress
  • IRE1α/XBP1
  • Mutp53H273
  • P53
  • ST-083010
  • Zinc supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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