DNA damage and p21(WAF1/CIP1/SDI1) in experimental injury of the rat adrenal cortex and trauma-associated damage of the human adrenal cortex

J Pathol. 1999 Sep;189(1):119-26. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9896(199909)189:1<119::AID-PATH403>3.0.CO;2-D.


In vivo models are needed to study the reactions of tissues to DNA damage, such as the induction of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21, indicating potential repair of the damage, versus apoptosis, indicating the elimination of the damaged cells. Damage to DNA occurs in tissues during shock, sepsis, and other critical medical conditions. Previous studies have found evidence of damage to the cortex of adrenal glands from organ donors who had undergone severe trauma prior to death. The present experiment studied rats under experimental interventions of clinical relevance to patients with conditions that put them at risk for damage to the adrenal glands. These interventions comprised ischaemia and reperfusion injury, sepsis following caecal ligation and puncture, acute pancreatitis, and administration of chemical agents (zymosan and acrylonitrile). All the interventions caused an increase in p21 mRNA as assessed by northern blotting and in situ hybridization. Increased nuclear p21 protein was shown by immunohistochemistry. All the interventions caused damage to DNA, as shown by labelling of available 3' termini of single-strand breaks with terminal transferase. The number of cells undergoing apoptosis, visualized by ligation of a hairpin oligonucleotide probe to double-strand breaks in DNA, was much lower. In rat adrenal glands, apoptotic cells were infrequent under all the conditions studied. They were more abundant in human organ donor adrenal glands that were previously shown to have extensive DNA damage accompanied by induction of p21. The similarity of the effects of a wide variety of surgical interventions and chemical agents suggest a common pathophysiological mechanism which is not specific to the initiating injury. Experimental injury of the rat adrenal cortex provides a model for investigating the role of organ DNA damage and of mediators of the response to DNA damage, such as p21.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex / injuries*
  • Adrenal Cortex / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Child
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins / analysis*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reperfusion Injury / metabolism*
  • Tissue Donors


  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cdkn1a protein, rat
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins
  • Enzyme Inhibitors