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Cancer Biol Ther. 2010 Feb;9(3):246-52. Epub 2010 Feb 25.

DNA damage signaling is activated during cancer progression in human colorectal carcinoma.

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Department of Surgery and Clinical Science, Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine, Yamaguchi, Japan.



Recent studies have shown that the DNA damage response (DDR) is activated in precancerous lesions, suggesting that neoplastic cells may avoid apoptosis by impairing the DDR which acts as a barrier against tumor progression. To define the role of the DDR pathway in human colorectal carcinoma, we investigated the level of phosphorylated proteins of the DDR pathway.


Immunostaining for pATM, gammaH2AX and pChk2 revealed that all were significantly expressed during tumor progression in advanced carcinoma (vs. normal tissue for pATM [p < 0.05]; vs. normal and adenoma for gammaH2AX [p < 0.05]; and vs. normal tissue for pChk2 [p < 0.05]. Western blot analysis of gammaH2AX and pChk2 revealed that their level increased gradually during tumor progression and was maximal in advanced carcinoma (vs. normal tissue; p < 0.05). No apoptotic cells were found in any tissue sample.


Colorectal tissue samples were obtained at the time of surgery, from 55 patients at two hospitals. The tissues were classified into four groups according to pathology: normal mucosa, adenoma, early carcinoma and advanced carcinoma. We evaluated phosphorylated ataxia telangiectasia mutated (pATM), phosphorylated H2AX (gammaH2AX) and Chk2 (pChk2) protein levels by immunohistochemistry and western blot analysis. We also evaluated apoptosis by the TUNEL assay.


The DDR pathway was activated during cancer progression, but no apoptosis was detected, even among the cells with activated DDR. It is likely that activation of DDR was induced by stress signaling as a consequence of oxidative, replication and mechanical stresses occurring during growth and expansion of the colorectal cancer.

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