The tumor suppressor p53 and its close relative p73 are activated in response to DNA damage resulting in either cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. Here, we show that DNA damage induces the acetylation of p73 by the acetyltransferase p300. Inhibiting the enzymatic activity of p300 hampers apoptosis in a p53(-/-) background. Furthermore, a nonacetylatable p73 is defective in activating transcription of the proapoptotic p53AIP1 gene but retains an intact ability to regulate other targets such as p21. Finally, p300-mediated acetylation of p73 requires the protooncogene c-abl. Our results suggest that DNA damage-induced acetylation potentiates the apoptotic function of p73 by enhancing the ability of p73 to selectively activate the transcription of proapoptotic target genes.
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