Activation of apoptosis through transcriptional induction of Puma and Noxa has long been considered to constitute the critical (if not sole) process by which p53 suppresses tumor development, although G1/S boundary cell-cycle arrest via induction of the CDK inhibitor p21 has also been thought to contribute. Recent analyses of mice bearing mutations that impair p53-mediated induction of select target genes have indicated that activation of apoptosis and G1/S cell-cycle arrest may, in fact, be dispensable for p53-mediated tumor suppression. However, the expression of Puma, Noxa, and p21 was not abrogated in these mutants, only reduced; therefore, the possibility that the reduced levels of these critical effectors of p53-mediated apoptosis and G1/S-cell-cycle arrest sufficed to prevent tumorigenesis could not be excluded. To resolve this important issue, we have generated mice deficient for p21, Puma, and Noxa (p21-/-puma-/-noxa-/- mice). Cells from these mice were deficient in their ability to undergo p53-mediated apoptosis, G1/S cell-cycle arrest, and senescence. Nonetheless, these animals remained tumor free until at least 500 days, in contrast to p53-deficient mice, which had all succumbed to lymphoma or sarcoma by 250 days. Interestingly, DNA lesions induced by γ-irradiation persisted longer in p53-deficient cells compared to wild-type or p21-/-puma-/-noxa-/- cells, and the former failed to transcriptionally activate several p53 target genes implicated in DNA repair. These results demonstrate beyond a doubt that the induction of apoptosis, cell-cycle arrest, and possibly senescence is dispensable for p53-mediated suppression of spontaneous tumor development and indicate that coordination of genomic stability and possibly other processes, such as metabolic adaptation, may instead be critical.
Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.