A novel apoptosis pathway activated by the carboxyl terminus of p21

Chen Dong, Qing Li, Shu Chen Lyu, Alan M. Krensky, Carol Clayberger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Delivery of biologically active peptides into cells may help elucidate intracellular signal transduction pathways, identify additional in vivo functions, and develop new therapeutics. Although p21 was first identified as a major regulator of cell cycle progression, it is now clear that p21 subserves multiple functions. The amino terminus of p21 interacts with cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases, while the carboxyl terminus interacts with proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible gene 45 (GADD45), calmodulin, SET, and CCAAT/enhancer binding protein-α (C/ EBP-α). A chimeric peptide, p21-IRS, consisting of the carboxyl terminal domain of p21 conjugated to a pentapeptide (RYIRS) rapidly enters lymphoid cells and activates apoptosis. In the present study, we investigate the molecular events involved in p21-activated apoptosis. Comparison of p21-IRS with other known proapoptotic agents demonstrates that p21-IRS activates a novel apoptotic pathway: mitochondria are central to the process, but caspases and a decrease in ΔΨm are not involved. Targeting the p21 peptide to specific cell populations may allow development of novel therapies to eliminate aberrant cells in human diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1187-1194
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Immunology


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