Interferons are important in regulating cell growth and differentiation, immune function and initiating anti-viral responses. While the pleotrophic actions of interferons have been well documented, the molecular mechanisms underpinning their biological effects have not been fully characterized. IFI 16 is a member of the interferon-inducible HIN-200 family of nuclear proteins, which we have recently shown can function as a potent transcriptional repressor. A murine member of the HIN-200 family, p202, can indirectly interact with p53 via the p53 binding protein (p53bp) and inhibit p53-mediated transcriptional activation. The binding activity of p202 to p53bp was shown to require the conserved MFHATVAT motif present in all 200 amino acid repeat regions of HIN-200 proteins. Given that IFI 16 contains two MFHATVAT motifs, we sought to determine whether IFI 16 may form a complex with p53 and if so to ascertain the functional significance of this interaction. We demonstrate that IFI 16 can directly bind to the C-terminal region of p53 and augment p53-mediated transcriptional activation without altering the steady state levels of p53. Thus, in addition to its ability to directly regulate gene expression, IFI 16 can also modulate the transcription function of other cellular transcription factors. These findings demonstrate a possible link between gene induction following interferon stimulation and p53-mediated cellular events.
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