Ambient oxygen promotes tumorigenesis.
Oxygen serves as an essential factor for oxidative stress, and it has been shown to be a mutagen in bacteria. While it is well established that ambient oxygen can also cause genomic instability in cultured mammalian cells, its effect on de novo tumorigenesis at the organismal level is unclear. Herein, by decreasing ambient oxygen exposure, we report a ∼50% increase in the median tumor-free survival time of p53-/- mice. In the thymus, reducing oxygen exposure decreased the levels of oxidative DNA damage and RAG recombinase, both of which are known to promote lymphomagenesis in p53-/- mice. Oxygen is further shown to be associated with genomic instability in two additional cancer models involving the APC tumor suppressor gene and chemical carcinogenesis. Together, these observations represent the first report directly testing the effect of ambient oxygen on de novo tumorigenesis and provide important physiologic evidence demonstrating its critical role in increasing genomic instability in vivo.