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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1999 Feb 1;43(3):601-5.

Distinct mathematical behavior of apoptotic versus non-apoptotic tumor cell death.

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Division of Pediatric Oncology, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



The presence or absence of a p53-dependent apoptosis response has previously been shown to greatly influence radiosensitivity in tumor cells. Here, we examine clonogenic survival curves for two genetically related oncogene transformed cell lines differing in the presence or absence of p53 and apoptosis. Solid tumor radiosensitivity patterns have been previously described for these lines.


Oncogene-transformed fibroblasts derived from E1A + Ras transfection of p53-wild-type or p53-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts were plated as single cells and irradiated at increasing radiation doses in single fractions from 1.5 to 11 Gy. Clonogenic cell survival assays were obtained. Survival data are fit to a linear-quadratic relationship: S = e(-alphaD-betaD2). Apoptosis was assessed and quantitated morphologically by staining with the fluorescent nuclear dye DAPI, by TUNEL assay for DNA fragmentation, and by measurement of apoptotic cysteine protease cleavage activity in cytosolic extracts.


Whereas radiation triggers massive apoptosis in the presence of p53, it produces no measurable DNA fragmentation, apoptotic cysteine protease cleavage activity, or morphological changes of apoptosis in the cells lacking p53. These contrasting mechanisms of death display dramatically different quantitative behavior: log-survival of apoptotic cells is linearly proportional to dose (S = e(-alphaD)), whereas survival of non-apoptotic (p53 null) is linear-quadratic with a significant quadratic contribution. The surviving fraction at 2 Gy (SF-2) for p53-null cells was 70% verses 12% for p53-intact cells.


In this system, apoptosis appears to exhibit a dominance of single-event which produces a very high alpha/beta ratio, and no significant shoulder; whereas non-apoptotic death in this system exhibits a comparatively small linear component, a low alpha/beta ratio, and a larger shoulder.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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