John Libbey Eurotext

Bulletin du Cancer


Cell cycle regulation after exposure to ionizing radiation Volume 86, issue 4, Avril 1999


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Laboratoire de biophysique, Faculté de médecine J.-Lisfranc, 15, rue Ambroise-Paré, 42023 Saint-Etienne Cedex 02.

When cells are exposed to ionizing radiation, they initiate a complex response that includes the arrest of cell cycle progression in G1 and G2, apoptosis and DNA repair. DNA is an important subcellular target of ionizing radiation, but oxydative damage to plasma membrane lipids initiates signal transduction pathways that activate apoptosis and that may play a role in cell cycle regulation. How is DNA damage converted into intracellular signals for cell cycle arrest? The ataxia telangectasia mutant (ATM) protein and/or the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), that are both activated by DNA damage, may initiate cell cycle arrest by activating the p53 tumor suppressor protein. The p53 protein acts as a transcription factor and regulates expression of several components implicated in pathways that regulate cell cycle progression. The best known, p21WAF1/CIP1 protein, is an inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK), a family of protein kinases known as key regulators of cell cycle progression. p21WAF1/CIP1 was shown to be able to inhibit several CDK, but is most effective toward G1/S cyclins. Other CDK inhibitors, p27KIP1 and p15INK4b are activated by irradiation and contribute to the G1 arrest. Moreover, radiation-induced G2 arrest was shown to require inhibitory phosphorylation of the kinase cdc2 via an ATM-dependent pathway. Mutations in cell cycle regulatory genes are common in human cancer and cell cycle regulatory deficiency can lead to increase resistance to ionizing radiation in cancer cells. The major function of p53-dependent G1 arrest may be elimination of cells containing DNA damage whereas G2 arrest following radiation has been shown to be important in protecting cells from death. Cell cycle checkpoints offer a new set of potential targets for chemotherapeutic compounds, especially the G2 checkpoint. Thus, abrogation of the G2 checkpoint with methylxanthines such as caffeine or protein kinase inhibitors such as staurosporine and UCN-01 (7-hydroxystaurosporine) was found to sensitize cells to ionizing radiation. These data did not lead to clinical applications, but confirm targeting of the G2 checkpoint may be an important strategy for cancer therapy.