...it turns out that the p in p53 stands for 'protein' and that the protein is coded for by the gene TP53. So if you just saw p53 written down, it's referring to the protein. But generally, if you were to come across some similar looking code type thingys (for example: saxA+, npfK1, fusA2 etc.) then I'd always assume it was a gene unless it said otherwise.
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