Influence of Induced Reactive Oxygen Species in p53-Mediated Cell Fate Decisions

Salvador Macip, Makoto Igarashi, Petra Berggren, Jian Yu, Sam W. Lee, Stuart A. Aaronson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

282 Scopus citations


The p53 tumor suppressor gene can induce either apoptosis or a permanent growth arrest (also termed senescence) phenotype in response to cellular stresses. We show that the increase in intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) associated with the magnitude of p53 protein expression correlated with the induction of either senescence or apoptosis in both normal and cancer cells. ROS inhibitors ameliorated both p53-dependent cell fates, implicating ROS accumulation as an effector in each case. The absence of Bax or PUMA strongly inhibited both p53-induced apoptosis and ROS increase, indicating an important role these p53 targets affecting mitochondrial function genes in p53-mediated ROS accumulation. Moreover, physiological p53 levels in combination with an exogenous ROS source were able to convert a p53 senescence response into apoptosis. All of these findings establish a critical role of ROS accumulation and mitochondrial function in p53-dependent cell fates and show that other ROS inducers can collaborate with p53 to influence these fate decisions. Thus, our studies imply that therapeutic agents that generate ROS are more likely to be toxic for normal cells than p53-negative tumor cells and provide a rationale for identifying therapeutic agents that do not complement p53 in ROS generation to ameliorate the cytotoxic side effects in normal cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8576-8585
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2003


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