Early analysis of the Caenorhabditis elegans genome failed to detect a gene resembling the important mammalian tumour suppressor gene p53. In the September 13 ScienceXpress, Brent Derry and colleagues at the University of California at Santa Barbara report that there is a nematode p53 orthologue that is involved in apoptosis and the stress response (zdoi;10.1126/science.1065486).

They named the gene cep-1 (C. elegans p53-like 1). Disrupting cep-1 expression (by mutation or RNAi experiments) had no affect on developmental cell death, but rendered germline cells resistant to apoptosis induced by ionizing radiation. Like the Drosophila homologue, C. elegansp53 seems not to be involved in cell-cycle arrest. Overexpression of CEP-1 caused caspase (ced3)-independent cell death and lethality.

These results offer a system to screen for genetic modifiers of the p53 pathway.

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