Swift elimination of undesirable cells is an important feature in tumour suppression and immunity. The tumour suppressor p53 and interferon-α and -β (IFN-α/β) are essential for the induction of apoptosis in cancerous cells and in antiviral immune responses, respectively, but little is known about their interrelationship. Here we show that transcription of the p53 gene is induced by IFN-α/β, accompanied by an increase in p53 protein level. IFN-α/β signalling itself does not activate p53; rather, it contributes to boosting p53 responses to stress signals. We show examples in which p53 gene induction by IFN-α/β contributes to tumour suppression. Furthermore, we show that p53 is activated in virally infected cells to evoke an apoptotic response and that p53 is critical for antiviral defence of the host. Our study reveals a hitherto unrecognized link between p53 and IFN-α/β in tumour suppression and antiviral immunity, which may have therapeutic implications.
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