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Carcinogenesis. 2005 Jan;26(1):249-57. Epub 2004 Oct 21.

UVB-induced apoptosis drives clonal expansion during skin tumor development.

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Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


The mechanism by which a single mutant cell clonally expands is usually assumed to involve an additional mutation in a cell cycle regulatory gene. An alternative mechanism for driving clonal expansion is apoptosis, which might create vacant stem cell compartments that can be repopulated by mutant cells. This model predicts that in a mouse with reduced apoptotic capacity (i) more mutated cells will appear initially but (ii) these cells will expand into clones more slowly than in wild-type animals. To test this hypothesis for ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced skin carcinogenesis, we examined UVB-induced p53 mutant clones and tumors in a transgenic (Tg) mouse (K14-Survivin) with skin-specific expression of the apoptosis inhibitor Survivin. To limit the effects of Survivin on apoptosis, without affecting epidermal proliferation or differentiation, we used Survivin expression levels and UVB doses that resulted in a 2-fold reduction in keratinocyte apoptosis. After 5 weeks of chronic UVB irradiation, newly created p53 mutant keratinocyte clones (indicative of initial mutation frequency) were 1.4-fold more frequent in K14-Survivin mice (P = 4 x 10(-6)). As predicted, this effect was reversed for clones growing by clonal expansion, which were rarer in Tg skin by 1.7-fold (P = 0.047). At 10 weeks large expanding Tg clones were rarer by a magnitude approaching the apoptosis differential (approximately 2-fold, P = 4 x 10(-5)). Survivin expression also retarded clonal expansion at later stages of tumor development. By 20 weeks 95% of animals carried tumors (primarily papillomas), which were 1.6-fold rarer in apoptosis-defective Tg mice (P = 0.03). In contrast, the rate of tumors attaining large size (> or =3 mm, P = 0.048) and converting to carcinoma was increased approximately 2-fold in Tg mice. Thus, Survivin-regulated apoptosis appears to suppress two stages that involve new mutations, initiation and malignant conversion, yet drives clonal expansion of existing p53 mutant cells.

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