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Oncogene. 2009 Jul 9;28(27):2502-12. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.101. Epub 2009 May 18.

RUNX1 and its fusion oncoprotein derivative, RUNX1-ETO, induce senescence-like growth arrest independently of replicative stress.

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Molecular Oncology Laboratory, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Institute of Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow, Bearsden, Glasgow, Scotland.


A role for the RUNX genes in cancer fail-safe processes has been suggested by their induction of senescence-like growth arrest in primary murine fibroblasts and the failure of RAS-induced senescence in Runx2-deficient cells. We now show that RUNX1 induces senescence in human primary fibroblasts. High-affinity DNA binding is necessary but not sufficient, as shown by the functional attenuation of the truncated RUNX1/AML1a isoform and the TEL-RUNX1 fusion oncoprotein. However, a similar phenotype was potently induced by the RUNX1-ETO (AML1-ETO) oncoprotein, despite its dominant-negative potential. A detailed comparison of H-RAS(V12), RUNX1 and RUNX1-ETO senescent phenotypes showed that the RUNX effectors induce earlier growth stasis with only low levels of DNA damage signaling and a lack of chromatin condensation, a marker of irreversible growth arrest. In human fibroblasts, all effectors induced p53 in the absence of detectable p14(Arf), whereas only RUNX1-ETO induced senescence in p16(Ink4a)-null cells. Correlation was noted between induction of p53, reactive oxygen species and phospho-p38, whereas p38(MAPK) inhibition rescued cell growth markedly. These findings indicate a role for replication-independent pathways in RUNX and RUNX1-ETO senescence, and show that the context-specific oncogenic activity of RUNX1 fusion proteins is mirrored in their distinctive interactions with fail-safe responses.

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