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Cancer Gene Ther. 2003 Dec;10(12):926-34.

Increased radiation-induced apoptosis and altered cell cycle progression of human lung cancer cell lines by antisense oligodeoxynucleotides targeting p53 and p21(WAF1/CIP1).

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Department of Radiotherapy, University Essen, 45122 Essen, Germany.


Lung cancer is difficult to control locally by radiotherapy and is known to have frequently p53 mutations. Previous results have shown that non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines with nonfunctional p53 have a higher fraction of radiation-induced apoptosis and that apoptosis follows after the release from the G2/M arrest. The aim of the present work was to study whether inhibition of the p53 response in NSCLC cell lines can modulate the G2/M arrest and the induction of apoptosis after ionizing radiation. Antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (As-ODNs) were used to inhibit the p53 response in the cell lines H460 and A549 with functional p53. In addition, H661 with nonfunctional p53 was used. The results have shown that As-ODNs targeting mRNA of p53 and p21 downregulate radiation-induced expression of p53 and p21(WAF1/CIP1). Delayed apoptosis (35.7+/-4.2% in H460, 1.2+/-0.4% in A549 and 72.2+/-6.5% in H661) was observed after cell cycle progression beyond the G2 block, either in the late G2 phase of the same cell cycle being irradiated (H661) or in the G1 phase of the subsequent cell cycle (H460, A549). As-p53 significantly decreased the fraction of G2/M-arrested cells in H460 cells and increased radiation-induced apoptosis at 96 hours by 17.9+/-8.5 and 9.1+/-3.3% to 53.6+/-7.4 and 10.8+/-2.9% in H460 and A549 cells (P<.01), respectively, but had no effect in H661 cells with nonfunctional p53. In addition, As-p21 decreased the fraction of G2-arrested A549 and H460 cells and increased apoptosis by 23.8+/-5.2 and 31.6+/-7.3% to 59.4+/-3.1 and 32.8+/-7.3%, respectively (P<.01). In conclusion, these data show that radiation-induced G2 arrest is decreased in NSCLC cells and radiation-induced apoptosis is increased when p53-responsive pathways are blocked via As-ODN targeting p53 or p21(WAF1/CIP1) mRNA. In view of the fact that p53 and p21 As-ODN had similar effects on radiation-induced apoptosis normalized by their ability to inhibit radiation-induced p21 expression, we concluded that p21 is an important trigger of late ionizing radiation-induced apoptosis.

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