A p53 score derived from TP53 CRISPR/Cas9 HMCLs predicts survival and reveals a major role of BAX in the response to BH3 mimetics

Blood. 2024 Mar 28;143(13):1242-1258. doi: 10.1182/blood.2023021581.


To establish a strict p53-dependent gene-expression profile, TP53-/- clones were derived from TP53+/+ and TP53-/mut t(4;14) human myeloma cell lines (HMCLs) using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. From the 17 dysregulated genes shared between the TP53-/- clones from TP53+/+ HMCLs, we established a functional p53 score, involving 13 genes specifically downregulated upon p53 silencing. This functional score segregated clones and myeloma cell lines as well as other cancer cell lines according to their TP53 status. The score efficiently identified samples from patients with myeloma with biallelic TP53 inactivation and was predictive of overall survival in Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation-coMMpass and CASSIOPEA cohorts. At the functional level, we showed that among the 13 genes, p53-regulated BAX expression correlated with and directly affected the MCL1 BH3 mimetic S63845 sensitivity of myeloma cells by decreasing MCL1-BAX complexes. However, resistance to S63845 was overcome by combining MCL1 and BCL2 BH3 mimetics, which displayed synergistic efficacy. The combination of BH3 mimetics was effective in 97% of patient samples with or without del17p. Nevertheless, single-cell RNA sequencing analysis showed that myeloma cells surviving the combination had lower p53 score, showing that myeloma cells with higher p53 score were more sensitive to BH3 mimetics. Taken together, we established a functional p53 score that identifies myeloma cells with biallelic TP53 invalidation, demonstrated that p53-regulated BAX is critical for optimal cell response to BH3 mimetics, and showed that MCL1 and BCL2 BH3 mimetics in combination may be of greater effectiveness for patients with biallelic TP53 invalidation, for whom there is still an unmet medical need.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Multiple Myeloma* / drug therapy
  • Multiple Myeloma* / genetics
  • Multiple Myeloma* / metabolism
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Pyrimidines*
  • Thiophenes*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / genetics
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism


  • S63845
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Pyrimidines
  • Thiophenes