The p53 protein works to suppress cancer cells by the induction of senescence, apoptosis and cell cycle arrest, but its role in the longevity of organisms remains unknown. In 3 January Nature, Stuart Tyner and colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA, show that p53 has a role in controlling ageing in mice.

Tyner et al. generated mice with a mutation that confers phenotypes consistent with activated p53. They found that mutated mice are highly resistant to tumors but display early onset of phenotypes associated with ageing. In addition, a second line of transgenic mice containing multiple copies of a temperature-sensitive mutant p53 allele also displayed signs of early ageing (Nature 2002, 415:45-53).

In an accompanying News and Views article, Gerardo Ferbeyre and Scott Lowe suggested that the results "raise the disturbing possibility that the DNA-damaging drugs used to treat cancer in young...

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