Differential responses of proliferating versus quiescent cells to adriamycin

Exp Cell Res. 1999 Jul 10;250(1):131-41. doi: 10.1006/excr.1999.4551.


The relative sensitivity of proliferating and quiescent cells to DNA-damaging agents is a key factor for cancer chemotherapy. Here we undertook a reevaluation of the way that proliferating and quiescent cells differ in their responses and fate to adriamycin-induced damage. Distinct types of assays that measure membrane integrity, metabolic activity, cell size, DNA content, and the ability to proliferate were used to compare growing and quiescent Swiss3T3 fibroblasts after adriamycin treatment. We found that immediately after adriamycin treatment of growing cells, p53 and p21(Cip1/Waf1) were induced but the cells remained viable. In contrast, less p53 and p21(Cip1/Waf1) were induced in quiescent cells after adriamycin treatment, but the cells were more prone to immediate cell death, possibly involving apoptosis. Adriamycin induced a G2/M cell cycle arrest in growing cells and a concomitant increase in cell size. In contrast, adriamycin induced an increase in sub-G1 DNA content in quiescent cells and a decrease in cell size. In contrast to the short-term responses, adriamycin-treated quiescent cells have a better long-term survival and proliferation potential than adriamycin-treated growing cells in colony formation assays. These data suggest that proliferating and resting cells are remarkably different in their short-term and long-term responses to adriamycin.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins / biosynthesis
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Trypan Blue
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / biosynthesis


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Cdkn1a protein, mouse
  • Cdkn1a protein, rat
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Doxorubicin
  • Trypan Blue