The p53 tumor suppressor integrates upstream signals such as DNA damage and active oncogenes to initiate cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. This response is critical to halting inappropriate growth signals. As such, p53 activity is lost in cancer. In melanoma, however, the p53 gene is intact in a reported 94% of human cases. Rather than direct mutation, p53 is held inactive through interaction with inhibitory proteins. Here, we examine the expression of the two primary inhibitors of p53, MDM2 and MDM4, in genomic databases and biopsy specimens. We find that MDM4 is frequently overexpressed. Moreover, changes in splicing of MDM4 occur frequently and early in melanomagenesis. These changes in splicing must be considered in the design of therapeutic inhibitors of the MDM2/4 proteins for melanoma.
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