Detection and prevention of viral infection and tumor induction are key to maintaining host integrity, and both rely on a variety of molecular parties. p53 is a potent tumor suppressor and a common denominator in human cancer. It transmits signals generated by cellular stresses—including DNA damage—to genes and factors that ultimately induce cell death. Interferons (IFNs) are a family of cytokines that protect the body against viral infection. In an advanced online publication in the July 17 Nature, Akinori Takaoka and colleagues at the University of Tokyo describe a previously unreported crosstalk between p53 and IFNs in tumor suppression and antiviral immunity (Nature, DOI:10.1038/nature01850, July 16, 2003).

Takaoka et al. stimulated mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) with IFN-α and IFN-β and in both cases observed an induction of p53 transcription and a substantial increase in the level of the protein. INFs did not activate p53 directly but rather...

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