7.344 Tumor Suppressor Gene p53: How the Guardian of our Genome Prevents Cancer

As taught in: Fall 2010

An illustration showing the p53 molecule shaded in pink and yellow, wrapped around DNA, shown as a green and purple double helix.

The illustration above shows the p53 tumor suppressor bound to DNA. (Illustration by David S. Goodsell of the Scripps Research Institute, from Protein Data Bank Molecule of the Month.)




Dr. Wen Xue

Course Description

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. Cancer involves uncontrolled cell growth, resistance to cell death, failure to differentiate into a particular cell type, and increased cellular motility. A family of gate-keeper genes, known as tumor suppressor genes, plays important roles in preventing the initiation and progression of cancer. Among these, p53 is the most famous. Because of its essential role in maintaining genomic integrity, p53 is often called the guardian of the genome. During this course, we will study how p53 serves as a pivotal tumor suppressor gene in preventing cancer.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting. Many instructors of the Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are postdoctoral scientists with a strong interest in teaching.