Anti-tumorigenic mechanisms mediated by the tumor suppressor p53, upon oncogenic stresses, are our bodies’ greatest weapons to battle against cancer onset and development. Consequently, factors that possess significant p53-regulating activities have been subjects of serious interest from the cancer research community. Among them, MDM2 and ARF are considered the most influential p53 regulators due to their abilities to inhibit and activate p53 functions, respectively. MDM2 inhibits p53 by promoting ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation of p53, while ARF activates p53 by physically interacting with MDM2 to block its access to p53. This conventional understanding of p53-MDM2-ARF functional triangle have guided the direction of p53 research, as well as the development of p53-based therapeutic strategies for the last 30 years. Our increasing knowledge of this triangle during this time, especially through identification of p53-independent functions of MDM2 and ARF, have uncovered many under-appreciated molecular mechanisms connecting these three proteins. Through recognizing both antagonizing and synergizing relationships among them, our consideration for harnessing these relationships to develop effective cancer therapies needs an update accordingly. In this review, we will re-visit the conventional wisdom regarding p53-MDM2-ARF tumor-regulating mechanisms, highlight impactful studies contributing to the modern look of their relationships, and summarize ongoing efforts to target this pathway for effective cancer treatments. A refreshed appreciation of p53-MDM2-ARF network can bring innovative approaches to develop new generations of genetically-informed and clinically-effective cancer therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number818744
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - Jan 26 2022


  • ARF
  • CDKN2A
  • MDM2
  • cancer therapy
  • oncogene
  • p14ARF
  • p53
  • tumor suppressor


Dive into the research topics of 'It’s Getting Complicated—A Fresh Look at p53-MDM2-ARF Triangle in Tumorigenesis and Cancer Therapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this