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Cancer Res. 2000 Aug 15;60(16):4638-44.

p53 promotes selection for Fas-mediated apoptotic resistance.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Stanford University Medical Center, California 94305-5468, USA.


Although p53 inactivation is implicated as a mechanism to explain diminished apoptotic response, it is clear that tumor cells that possess transcriptionally functional p53 can also be resistant to diverse apoptotic stimuli. We hypothesize that oncogenic activation and DNA damage are sufficient stimuli to increase the p53-dependent transcription of Fas and thereby establish a situation in which cell to cell contact could be a selective pressure to either lose p53 function or inactivate components of the Fas death pathway. Examination of genetically matched tumor cell lines that possessed either wild-type or null p53 loci indicated that cells possessing functional p53 increased their surface levels of Fas and Fas ligand (FasL) in response to DNA damage. In contrast, stress induced by changes in the tumor microenvironment such as decreased oxygen did not up-regulate Fas or FasL. Cells with wild-type p53 underwent Fas-mediated killing in the presence of either FasL-expressing killer cells or activating Fas antibodies, whereas cells in which p53 was deleted or inactivated were protected from such killing. Furthermore, Fas and FasL expression and induction became transcriptionally repressed in transformed cells with wild-type p53 with increasing passage, whereas other p53 downstream targets and functions, such as p21 inducibility and cell cycle arrest, remained intact. Repression of the Fas locus could be reverted by treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A. These results support a model of tumor progression in which oncogenic transformation drives tumor cells to lose either p53 or their Fas sensitivity as a means of promoting their survival and evade immune surveillance.

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