Microarray analysis reveals that TP53- and ATM-mutant B-CLLs share a defect in activating proapoptotic responses after DNA damage but are distinguished by major differences in activating prosurvival responses.
The ATM/p53-dependent DNA damage response pathway plays an important role in the progression of lymphoid tumors. Inactivation of the ATM or TP53 gene is frequent in B-cell lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) and leads to aggressive disease. Although the ATM and p53 pathways overlap, they are not congruent, and it is unclear how the mechanism of tumor progression differs between ATM- and p53-deficient tumors. Using microarray analysis of ATM-mutant, TP53-mutant, and ATM/TP53 wild-type B-CLLs, we show that after exposure to DNA damage transcriptional responses are entirely dependent on ATM function. The p53 proapoptotic responses comprise only a part of ATM-regulated transcription; additionally, ATM regulates prosurvival responses independently of p53. Consequently, the greater severity of the TP53-mutant B-CLLs compared with ATM-mutant B-CLLs is consistent with the additive effect of defective apoptotic and elevated survival responses after DNA damage in these tumors. We also show that transcription expression profiles of ATM-deficient, TP53-deficient, and wild-type B-CLLs are indistinguishable before irradiation. Therefore, damage-induced transcriptional fingerprinting can be used to stratify tumors according to their biologic differences and simultaneously identify potential targets for treating refractory tumors.