Distinct mathematical behavior of apoptotic versus non-apoptotic tumor cell death

Patricia Harrigan Hardenbergh, Philip Hahnfeldt, Lynn Hlatky, Clifford M Takemoto, Akiko Shimamura, Gaël McGill, Claire Y. Fung, Stephan Bodis, David E. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: The presence or absence of a p53-dependent apoptosis response has previously been shown to greatly influence radiosensitivity in tumor cells. Here, we examine clonogenic survival curves for two genetically related oncogene transformed cell lines differing in the presence or absence of p53 and apoptosis. Solid tumor radiosensitivity patterns have been previously described for these lines. Materials and Methods: Oncogene- transformed fibroblasts derived from E1A + Ras transfection of p53-wild-type or p53-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts were plated as single cells and irradiated at increasing radiation doses in single fractions from 1.5 to 11 Gy. Clonogenic cell survival assays were obtained. Survival data are fit to a linear-quadratic relationship: S = e(-αD-βD2). Apoptosis was assessed and quantitated morpholOgiCally by staining with the fluorescent nuclear dye DAPI, by TUNEL assay for DNA fragmentation, and by measurement of apoptotic cysteine protease cleavage activity in cytosolic extracts. Results: Whereas radiation triggers massive apoptosis in the presence of p53, it produces no measurable DNA fragmentation, apoptotic cysteine protease cleavage activity, or morphological changes of apoptosis in the cells lacking p53. These contrasting mechanisms of death display dramatically different quantitative behavior: log-survival of apoptotic cells is linearly proportional to dose (S = e(-αD)), whereas survival of non-apoptotic (p53 null) is linear-quadratic with a significant quadratic contribution. The surviving fraction at 2 Gy (SF-2) for p53-null cells was 70% verses 12% for p53-intact cells. Conclusions: In this system, apoptosis appears to exhibit a dominance of single-event which produces a very high α/β ratio, and no significant shoulder; whereas non-apoptotic death in this system exhibits a comparatively small linear component, a low α/β ratio, and a larger shoulder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-605
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Clonogenic survival
  • Linear quadratic model
  • Quantitative radiobiology
  • Radiation therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiation


Dive into the research topics of 'Distinct mathematical behavior of apoptotic versus non-apoptotic tumor cell death'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this