Assays to measure p53-dependent and -independent apoptosis

Methods Mol Biol. 2009;559:143-59. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60327-017-5_11.


Paramount to the maintenance of normal tissue homeostasis is the induction of programmed cell death, otherwise known as apoptosis. Several disease states, including cancer, are characterized by an inability to remove unwanted cells due to a failure to commit to apoptosis. What is more, apoptosis is the central functional response behind many agents utilized in the treatment of cancer. Many of these antitumorigenic agents rely on the activation of the tumor suppressor p53. As the physiological "guardian of the genome," p53's normal function is to sense stressed or damaged cells and arrest proliferation, allowing time for cellular repair. However, if the damage is excessive, cells are removed prior to the onset of malignancy through apoptosis. Current chemotherapeutic strategies manipulate this property by damaging cells and turning on p53's transcriptional function, which consequently upregulates the expression of proapoptotic proteins such as Puma. We have also demonstrated that Puma is capable of inducing apoptosis independent of p53. In this regard, defects in the apoptotic machinery or in p53 function itself lead to a resistant phenotype that in cancer results in chemotherapeutic failure, and more often than not, poor prognosis. This chapter describes protocols for the determination of p53-dependent and -independent apoptosis utilizing primary cells from genetically altered mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Separation / methods*
  • DNA / analysis
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myeloid Progenitor Cells / cytology
  • Myeloid Progenitor Cells / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • PUMA protein, mouse
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • DNA