Designing a system that adequately processes the input and that rejects the effects of disturbance is a central theme in feedback control theory. In this paper, we use the concept of “disturbance rejection” to analyze the oscillatory behavior of p53, a well-known tumor suppressor protein. Our analysis reveals that the p53 oscillation is not completely dictated by the p53-MDM2 negative feedback loop—it is also modulated by periodic DNA repair-related fluctuations. According to our disturbance rejection model, the feedback loop normally filters the effects of noise and fluctuations on p53, but upon DNA damage, it stops performing the filtering function so that DNA repair-related fluctuations can modulate the p53 oscillation. Our analysis suggests that the overexpression of MDM2, observed in many types of cancer, can make the feedback mechanism less responsive to the modulating signals after DNA damage occurs.

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