The MDMX (MDM4) oncogene is amplified or overexpressed in a significant percentage of human tumors. MDMX is thought to function as an oncoprotein by binding p53 tumor suppressor protein to inhibit p53-mediated transcription, and by complexing with MDM2 oncoprotein to promote MDM2-mediated degradation of p53. However, down-regulation or loss of functional MDMX has also been observed in a variety of human tumors that are mutated for p53, often correlating with more aggressive cancers and a worse patient prognosis. We have previously reported that endogenous levels of MdmX can suppress proliferation and promote pseudo-bipolar mitosis in primary and tumor cells derived from p53-deficient mice, and that MdmX-p53 double deficient mice succumb to spontaneously formed tumors more rapidly than p53-deficient mice. These results suggest that the MdmX oncoprotein may act as a tumor-suppressor in cancers with compromised p53 function. By using orthotopic transplantation and lung colonization assays in mice we now establish a p53-independent anti-oncogenic role for MdmX in tumor progression. We also demonstrate that the roles of MdmX in genome stability and in proliferation are two distinct functions encoded by the separate MdmX protein domains. The central Zn-finger domain suppresses multipolar mitosis and chromosome loss, whereas the carboxy-terminal RING domain suppresses proliferation of p53-deficient cells. Furthermore, we determine that it is the maintenance of genome stability that underlies MdmX role in suppression of tumorigenesis in hyperploid p53 mutant tumors. Our results offer a rationale for the increased metastatic potential of p53 mutant human cancers with aberrant MdmX function and provide a caveat for the application of anti-MdmX treatment of tumors with compromised p53 activity.
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