The tumor suppressor p53 prevents tumorigenesis and cancer progression by maintaining genomic stability and inducing cell growth arrest and apoptosis. Because of the extremely detrimental nature of wild-type p53, cancer cells usually mutate the TP53
gene in favor of their survival and propagation. Some of the mutant p53 proteins not only lose the wild-type activity, but also acquire oncogenic function, namely “gain-of-function”, to promote cancer development. Growing evidence has revealed that various E3 ubiquitin ligases are able to target both wild-type and mutant p53 for degradation or inactivation, and thus play divergent roles leading to cancer cell survival or death in the context of different p53 status. In this essay, we reviewed the recent progress in our understanding of the p53-targeting E3 ubiquitin ligases, and discussed the potential clinical implications of these E3 ubiquitin ligases in cancer therapy.
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