Regulation of reactive oxygen species by p53: Implications for nitric oxide-mediated apoptosis

Daniel A. Popowich, Ashley K. Vavra, Christopher P. Walsh, Hussein A. Bhikhapurwala, Nicholas B. Rossi, Qun Jiang, Oliver O. Aalami, Melina R. Kibbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


Nitric oxide (NO) induces vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) apoptosis in part through activation of p53. Traditionally, p53 has been thought of as the gatekeeper, determining if a cell should undergo arrest and repair or apoptosis following exposure to DNA-damaging agents, depending on the severity of the damage. However, our laboratory previously demonstrated that NO induces apoptosis to a much greater extent in p53-/- compared with p53 +/+ VSMC. Increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) within VSMC has been shown to induce VSMC apoptosis, and recently it was found that the absence of, or lack of, functional p53 leads to increased ROS and oxidative stress within different cell types. This study investigated the differences in intracellular ROS levels between p53-/- and p53+/+ VSMC and examined if these differences were responsible for the increased susceptibility to NO-induced apoptosis observed in p53-/- VSMC. We found that p53 actually protects VSMC from NO-induced apoptosis by increasing antioxidant protein expression [i.e., peroxiredoxin-3 (PRx-3)], thereby reducing ROS levels and cellular oxidative stress. We also observed that the NO-induced apoptosis in p53-/- VSMC was largely abrogated by pretreatment with catalase. Furthermore, when the antioxidant protein PRx-3 and its specific electron acceptor thioredoxin-2 were silenced within p53+/+ VSMC with small-interfering RNA, not only did these cells exhibit greater ROS production, but they also exhibited increased NO-induced apoptosis similar to that observed in p53-/- VSMC. These findings suggest that ROS mediate NO-induced VSMC apoptosis and that p53 protects VSMC from NO-induced apoptosis by decreasing intracellular ROS. This research demonstrates that p53 has antioxidant functions in stressed cells and also suggests that p53 has antiapoptotic properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H2192-H2200
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010


  • Antioxidant proteins
  • Knockout mouse
  • Peroxiredoxin-3
  • Thioredoxin-2
  • Vascular smooth muscle cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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