Resistance to chemotherapy represents a major hurdle to successful cancer treatment. A key role for efficient response to anticancer therapies is played by TP53 oncosuppressor gene that indeed is mutated in 50% of human cancers or inactivated at protein level in the remaining 50%. Homeodomain-interacting protein kinase 2 (HIPK2) is the wild-type p53 (wtp53) apoptotic activator, and its inhibition by hypoxia or hyperglycemia may contribute to tumor chemoresistance mainly by impairing p53 apoptotic activity. Another important molecule able to induce chemoresistance is nuclear factor erythroid 2 (NF-E2) p45-related factor 2 (NRF2) transcription factor, whose activation by oxidative and/or electrophilic stress regulates a transcriptional antioxidant program allowing cancer cells to adapt and survive to stresses. NRF2 may shift from cytoprotective to tumor-promoting function, according to tumor phases. NRF2 may crosstalk with both wtp53 and mutant p53 (mutp53), inhibiting the wtp53 apoptotic function and strengthening the mutp53 oncogenic function. NRF2 has also been shown to induce HIPK2 mRNA expression cooperating in inducing cytoprotection. Although HIPK2, p53, and NRF2 have been individually extensively studied, their interplay has not been clearly addressed yet. On the basis of the background and our results, we aim at hypothesizing the unexpected pro-survival activity played by the NRF2/HIPK2/p53 interplay that can be hijacked by cancer cells to bypass drugs cytotoxicity.
© 2020 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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