It is proposed that genomic integrity is preserved after DNA damage in a variety of ways. X irradiation induces a p53-dependent G1-phase cell cycle checkpoint which putatively allows time for repair of DNA damage. The p53 protein is also involved in the initiation of apoptosis after radiation-induced DNA damage, presumably leading to the elimination of lethally damaged cells from the irradiated population. To test the hypothesis that repair occurs in the additional time provided by the activation of the G1-phase checkpoint, we investigated whether the presence of a G1-phase arrest modified the frequency and type of chromosomal rearrangements at the first mitosis after irradiation. Isogenic cell lines derived from the same human glioma cell line, but differing in p53 status, were used. Purified G1-phase cells, isolated by centrifugal elutriation and X-irradiated, were studied. The wild-type p53 cell line demonstrated a dose-dependent arrest during G1 phase, as determined by flow cytometry. These cells remained in G1 phase as long as 48 h after irradiation. Cells expressing a dominant-negative p53 mutation accumulated to a much lesser extent in G1 phase after irradiation. Cells lacking the G1-phase checkpoint showed increased survival at all radiation doses. There were no significant differences in the type or frequency of total chromosomal aberrations in mitotic cells from either cell line after 1, 2, 4, or 6 Gy X rays, as measured by conventional cytogenetic analysis. There was an increase, however, in the number of reciprocal translocations in mitotic cells with mutant p53 (lacking a G1-phase checkpoint), as measured by fluorescence in situ hybridization with a chromosome 4-specific DNA library, but only after 6 Gy. The results suggest that the presence of a well-defined p53-dependent G1-phase arrest does not reduce chromosomal aberrations caused by low doses of ionizing radiation markedly, but may reduce the overall degree of survival by triggering other G1-phase events.

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