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Different levels or types of DNA damage activate distinct signaling pathways that elicit various cellular responses, including cell-cycle arrest, DNA repair, senescence, and apoptosis. Whereas a range of DNA-damage responses have been characterized, mechanisms underlying subsequent cell-fate decision remain elusive. Here we exposed cultured cells and mice to different doses and dose rates of γ-irradiation, which revealed cell-type-specific sensitivities to chronic, but not acute, γ-irradiation. Among tested cell types, human fibroblasts were associated with the highest levels of growth inhibition in response to chronic γ-irradiation. In this context, fibroblasts exhibited a reversible G1 cell-cycle arrest or an irreversible senescence-like growth arrest, depending on the irradiation dose rate or the rate of DNA damage. Remarkably, when the same dose of γ-irradiation was delivered chronically or acutely, chronic delivery induced considerably more cellular senescence. A similar effect was observed with primary cells isolated from irradiated mice. We demonstrate a critical role for the ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM)/tumor protein p53 (TP53)/p21 pathway in regulating DNA-damage-associated cell fate. Indeed, blocking the ATM/TP53/p21 pathway deregulated DNA damage responses, leading to micronucleus formation in chronically irradiated cells. Together these results provide insights into the mechanisms governing cell-fate determination in response to different rates of DNA damage.


  • PLoS ONE

    PLoS ONE 9(8), e104279, 2014-08-05

    Public Library of Science


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