Oncogenic stress sensitizes murine cancers to hypomorphic suppression of ATR

J Clin Invest. 2012 Jan;122(1):241-52. doi: 10.1172/JCI58928. Epub 2011 Dec 1.


Oncogenic Ras and p53 loss-of-function mutations are common in many advanced sporadic malignancies and together predict a limited responsiveness to conventional chemotherapy. Notably, studies in cultured cells have indicated that each of these genetic alterations creates a selective sensitivity to ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR) pathway inhibition. Here, we describe a genetic system to conditionally reduce ATR expression to 10% of normal levels in adult mice to compare the impact of this suppression on normal tissues and cancers in vivo. Hypomorphic suppression of ATR minimally affected normal bone marrow and intestinal homeostasis, indicating that this level of ATR expression was sufficient for highly proliferative adult tissues. In contrast, hypomorphic ATR reduction potently inhibited the growth of both p53-deficient fibrosarcomas expressing H-rasG12V and acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) driven by MLL-ENL and N-rasG12D. Notably, DNA damage increased in a greater-than-additive fashion upon combining ATR suppression with oncogenic stress (H-rasG12V, K-rasG12D, or c-Myc overexpression), indicating that this cooperative genome-destabilizing interaction may contribute to tumor selectivity in vivo. This toxic interaction between ATR suppression and oncogenic stress occurred without regard to p53 status. These studies define a level of ATR pathway inhibition in which the growth of malignancies harboring oncogenic mutations can be suppressed with minimal impact on normal tissue homeostasis, highlighting ATR inhibition as a promising therapeutic strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA Damage
  • Fibrosarcoma / genetics
  • Fibrosarcoma / therapy
  • Genes, p53
  • Genes, ras
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / therapy
  • Mice
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / therapy*
  • Oncogenes*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Atr protein, mouse
  • ATR protein, human
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases