ARF-BP1/Mule is a critical mediator of the ARF tumor suppressor.
Although the importance of the ARF tumor suppressor in p53 regulation is well established, numerous studies indicate that ARF also suppresses cell growth in a p53/Mdm2-independent manner. To understand the mechanism of ARF-mediated tumor suppression, we identified a ubiquitin ligase, ARF-BP1, as a key factor associated with ARF in vivo. ARF-BP1 harbors a signature HECT motif, and its ubiquitin ligase activity is inhibited by ARF. Notably, inactivation of ARF-BP1, but not Mdm2, suppresses the growth of p53 null cells in a manner reminiscent of ARF induction. Surprisingly, in p53 wild-type cells, ARF-BP1 directly binds and ubiquitinates p53, and inactivation of endogenous ARF-BP1 is crucial for ARF-mediated p53 stabilization. Thus, our study modifies the current view of ARF-mediated p53 activation and reveals that ARF-BP1 is a critical mediator of both the p53-independent and p53-dependent tumor suppressor functions of ARF. As such, ARF-BP1 may serve as a potential target for therapeutic intervention in tumors regardless of p53 status.