The tumor suppressor gene TP53 is frequently mutated in human cancers. More than 75% of all mutations are missense substitutions that have been extensively analyzed in various yeast and human cell assays. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) TP53 database (www-p53.iarc.fr) compiles all genetic variations that have been reported in TP53. Here, we present recent database developments that include new annotations on the functional properties of mutant proteins, and we perform a systematic analysis of the database to determine the functional properties that contribute to the occurrence of mutational "hotspots" in different cancer types and to the phenotype of tumors. This analysis showed that loss of transactivation capacity is a key factor for the selection of missense mutations, and that difference in mutation frequencies is closely related to nucleotide substitution rates along TP53 coding sequence. An interesting new finding is that in patients with an inherited missense mutation, the age at onset of tumors was related to the functional severity of the mutation, mutations with total loss of transactivation activity being associated with earlier cancer onset compared to mutations that retain partial transactivation capacity. Furthermore, 80% of the most common mutants show a capacity to exert dominant-negative effect (DNE) over wild-type p53, compared to only 45% of the less frequent mutants studied, suggesting that DNE may play a role in shaping mutation patterns. These results provide new insights into the factors that shape mutation patterns and influence mutation phenotype, which may have clinical interest.
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