The tumor suppressor protein p53 is emerging as a central regulator of homologous recombination (HR) processes and DNA replication. P53 may downregulate HR through multiple mechanisms including the reported associations with the Rad51 and Rad54 recombinases, and the BLM and WRN helicases. Here, we investigated whether the interaction of p53 with human replication protein A (RPA) is necessary for the regulation of HR. By employing a plasmid-based HR assay in p53-null H1299 lung carcinoma cells, we studied the HR-suppressing properties of a panel of p53 mutants, which varied in their ability to interact with RPA. Both wild-type p53 and a transactivation-deficient p53 mutant (L22Q/W23S) suppressed HR and prevented RPA binding to ssDNA in vitro and in vivo. Conversely, p53 mutations that specifically disrupt the RPA-binding domain, while not compromising p53 transactivation function (D48H/D49H and W53S/F54S), did not affect HR. Suppression of HR was also not seen with missense mutations in the p53 core domain (His175 and His273), which retained the ability to interact with RPA, suggesting that the disruption of additional binding interactions of p53, for example, with Rad51 or recombination intermediates, also impacts on HR. We hypothesize that sequestration of RPA by p53 at the sites of recombination is one means by which p53 can inhibit HR processes. Our data support and extend the previously formulated 'dual model' of p53's role as guardian of the genome.
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