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Oncogene. 1999 Jun 17;18(24):3652-8.

Effect of p21waf1/cip1 transgene on radiation induced apoptosis in T cells.

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Institut de Biologie Structurale JP Ebel, Grenoble, France.


The cyclin kinase inhibitor p21WAF1/Cip1 is upregulated by the tumor suppressor p53. While p21 is central for the G-1 arrest mediated by p53, it is still unclear if p21 also functions as a downstream effector of p53 dependent apoptosis. Apoptosis induced by DNA damage but not dexamethasone is p53 dependent in thymocytes. To investigate the physiological role of p21 in apoptosis, we have generated transgenic mice in which the p21 transgene is targeted for restricted expression in the T cell lineage. Thymocytes from p21 transgenic mice were hypersensitive to cell death induced by DNA damaging agents such as ionizing radiation and UV, but not be dexamethasone. Irradiated p21 transgenic thymocytes had approximately twofold more apoptotic cells as compared to irradiated age matched littermate control mice. Radiation induced death is comparable in thymocytes from p21 + Bcl2 + double transgenic mice and age matched littermate controls, indicating that the Bcl2 transgene rescues the radiation hypersensitivity imposed by p21. However, thymocytes from p53-/- mice even when they expressed the p21 transgene, were resistant to death induced by radiation. Together these results show that thymocytes from p21 transgenic mice are hypersensitive to radiation induced programmed cell death and suggest that the radiation hypersensitivity of p21 transgenic thymocytes involves p53 dependent pathway and signals in addition to p21.

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