Polyamine depletion stabilizes p53 resulting in inhibition of normal intestinal epithelial cell proliferation

Li Li, Jaladanki N. Rao, Xin Guo, Lan Liu, Rachel Santora, Barbara L. Bass, Jian Ying Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The p53 nuclear phosphoprotein plays a critical role in transcriptional regulation of target genes involved in growth arrest and apoptosis. The natural polyamines, including spermidine, spermine, and their precursor putrescine, are required for cell proliferation, and decreasing cellular polyamines inhibits growth of the small intestinal mucosa. In the current study, we investigated the mechanisms of regulation of p53 gene expression by cellular polyamines and further determined the role of the gene product in the process of growth inhibition after polyamine depletion. Studies were conducted both in vivo and in vitro using rats and the IEC-6 cell line, derived from rat small intestinal crypt cells. Levels for p53 mRNA and protein, transcription and posttranscription of the p53 gene, and cell growth were examined. Depletion of cellular polyamines by treatment with α-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) increased p53 gene expression and caused growth inhibition in the intact small intestinal mucosa and the cultured cells. Polyamine depletion dramatically increased the stability of p53 mRNA as measured by the mRNA half-life but had no effect on p53 gene transcription in IEC-6 cells. Induction of p53 mRNA levels in DFMO-treated cells was paralleled by an increase in the rate of newly synthesized p53 protein. The stability of p53 protein was also increased after polyamine depletion, which was associated with a decrease in Mdm2 expression. When polyamine-deficient cells were exposed to exogenous spermidine, a decrease in p53 gene expression preceded an increase in cellular DNA synthesis. Inhibition of the p53 gene expression by using p53 antisense oligodeoxyribonucleotides significantly promoted cell growth in the presence of DFMO. These findings indicate that polyamines downregulate p53 gene expression posttranscriptionally and that growth inhibition of small intestinal mucosa after polyamine depletion is mediated, at least partially, through the activation of p53 gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C941-C953
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number3 50-3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Apoptosis
  • Growth arrest
  • Messenger ribonucleic acid
  • Ornithine decarboxylase
  • Protein stability
  • Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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