Loss of p53 function has been shown to cause increased resistance to ionizing radiation in normal murine cells; however, the role of p53 in radioresistance of human tumor cells is less clear. Since wild-type p53 function is required for radiation-induced G1 arrest, we measured G1 arrest in 12 human tumor cell lines that have a wide range of radiosensitivities (surviving fraction at 2 Gy, 0.11–0.8). We observed a significant correlation between the level of ionizing radiation-induced G1 arrest and radiosensitivity. Cell lines having G1 arrest are more radiosensitive. There is no correlation between maximal G2 arrest and radiosensitivity. Expression of a dominant-negative mutant of p53 (codon 143, Val to Ala) in transfectants of the radiosensitive human ovarian cell line A2780 abrogates the radiation-induced G1 arrest. Such mutant p53 transfectants are more resistant to ionizing radiation than the parental line and vector-alone transfectants, as measured by clonogenic assays. These results support the concept that wild-type p53 function is required for sensitivity of tumor cells to DNA-damaging agents, such as ionizing radiation, and that the loss of p53 function in certain human tumor cells can lead to resistance to ionizing radiation.


This work was supported by the Cancer Research Campaign (United Kingdom) and the Scottish Hospitals Endowment Research Trust.

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