Mutations in the p53 gene are the most common genetic abnormality in human cancers and are the cause for drug resistance. Arsenic trioxide (ATO) is an effective chemotherapeutic agent for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) and is being tested in phase II studies in various types of cancers. We have previously shown that ATO is a potent inducer of apoptosis in multiple myeloma cells, engaging the intrinsic apoptotic pathway in cells expressing w.t. p53 whereas in cells expressing mutant p53, both the intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic pathways are engaged. To further establish the differential effect of ATO in relation to the p53 status we studied the effect of temperature shift in temperature sensitive (Ts)-p53 expressing baby rat kidney (BRK) cells. We studied by Western immunoblotting the activation of the intrinsic and the extrinsic apoptotic pathways in ATO-induced apoptosis of BRK cells cultured at 32°C (w.t. p53 phenotype) and 37°C (mutant p53 phenotype). As expected, at 32°C, we observed a G1 arrest through activation of p21. We also observed depolarization of mitochondrial membrane; the release of cytochrome C and activation of caspase-9 and apoptosis as measured by Annexin V. We also observed release of SMAC at 32°C. In contrast, at 37°C we observed a G2/M arrest with no activation of p21 with activation of the extrinsic apoptotic pathway through early induction of TRAIL and TRAIL receptor- R2, activation of caspase-8, activation of BID, degradation of FLIP, rapid depolarization of mitochondrial membrane and release of AIF from mitochondria to the cytosol. We also demonstrate by flow cytometry and confocal imaging translocation of AIF to the nucleus in ATO-induced apoptosis at 37°C but not at 32°C. These results further substantiate our p53 model (

Akay and Gazitt,
Cell Cycle

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