Journal Article

A new approach to identifying genotoxic carcinogens: p53 induction as an indicator of genotoxic damage.

J Yang and P Duerksen-Hughes

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 19, issue 6, pages 1117-1125
Published in print June 1998 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online June 1998 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
A new approach to identifying genotoxic carcinogens: p53 induction as an indicator of genotoxic damage.

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The tumor suppressor gene p53 encodes a nuclear phosphoprotein which is critical for cell cycle control and prevention of uncontrolled cell proliferation that can lead to cancer. Previous studies have shown that cells respond to DNA damage by increasing their levels of p53, which then acts to prevent replication of damaged DNA. This study examined the effects on p53 protein levels of several different categories of chemical carcinogens. N-Methyl-N'-nitro-nitrosoguanidine and N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea, two direct-acting genotoxic (DNA-reactive) carcinogens, caused p53 induction as early as 2 h following treatment, with peak increases within 4-12 h. Aflatoxin B1 and 2-acetylaminofluorene, indirect-acting genotoxic carcinogens, caused a later induction of p53, with the peak increase appearing between 16 and 24 h following treatment. These observations demonstrate a correlation between p53 induction pattern and DNA damaging mechanism of genotoxins. Phenol, diethylstilbestrol and ethylacrylate also induced increases in cellular p53. The half-life of p53 protein was increased in cells treated with genotoxic agents. On the other hand, the epigenetic (non-DNA-reactive) carcinogens azathioprine and saccharin, as well as two substances generally considered to be non-carcinogens, dimethylsulfoxide and benzethonium chloride, had no effect on p53 protein levels of treated cells. Measurement of the cytotoxic effects of each of these chemicals led to the conclusion that p53 protein induction is not a general, non-specific consequence of the cytotoxic effect of these genotoxins. These results suggest that measurement of p53 protein induction may be an effective tool to identify environmental genotoxins.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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