The Arf/p53 protein module, which induces apoptosis, down-regulates histone H2AX to allow normal cells to survive in the presence of anti-cancer drugs

Atsumi Y, Inase A, Osawa T, Sugihara E, Sakasai R, Fujimori H, Teraoka H, Saya H, Kanno M, Tashiro F, Nakagama H, Masutani M, Yoshioka K
Source: J Biol Chem
Publication Date: (2013)
Issue: 288(19): 13269-77
Research Area:
Cancer Research/Cell Biology
Cells used in publication:
Epithelial, mammary, human (HMEC)
Species: human
Tissue Origin: breast
BACKGROUND: It is unclear how DNA-damaging agents target cancer cells over normal somatic cells. RESULTS: Arf/p53-dependent down-regulation of H2AX enables normal cells to survive after DNA damage. CONCLUSION: Transformed cells, which harbor mutations in either Arf or p53, are more sensitive to DNA-damaging agents. SIGNIFICANCE: Cellular transformation renders cells more susceptible to some DNA-damaging agents. Anti-cancer drugs generally target cancer cells rather than normal somatic cells. However, the factors that determine this differential sensitivity are poorly understood. Here we show that Arf/p53-dependent down-regulation of H2AX induced the selective survival of normal cells after drug treatment, resulting in the preferential targeting of cancer cells. Treatment with camptothecin, a topoisomerase I inhibitor, caused normal cells to down-regulate H2AX and become quiescent, a process mediated by both Arf and p53. In contrast, transformed cells that harbor mutations in either Arf or p53 do not down-regulate H2AX and are more sensitive to drugs unless they have developed drug resistance. Such transformation-associated changes in H2AX expression rendered cancer cells more susceptible to drug-induced damage (by two orders of magnitude). Thus, the expression of H2AX and ?H2AX (phosphorylated form of H2AX at Ser-139) is a critical factor that determines drug sensitivity and should be considered when administering chemotherapy.