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Identification of p53 Activators in a Human Microarray Compendium

Corton JC, KL Witt and CL Yauk
Chemical Research in Toxicology (2019) v. 32 (9): pp. 1748-1759 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.chemrestox.9b00052



Biomarkers predictive of molecular and toxicological effects are needed to interpret emerging high-throughput transcriptomic data streams. The previously characterized 63 gene TGx-DDI biomarker that includes 20 genes known to be regulated by p53 was previously shown to accurately predict DNA damage in chemically treated cells. We comprehensively evaluated whether the molecular basis of the DDI predictions was based on a p53-dependent response. The biomarker was compared to microarray data in a compendium derived from human cells using the Running Fisher test, a nonparametric correlation test. Using the biomarker, we identified conditions that led to p53 activation, including exposure to the chemical nutlin-3 which disrupts interactions between p53 and the negative regulator MDM2 or by knockdown of MDM2. The expression of most of the genes in the biomarker (75%) were found to depend on p53 activation status based on gene behavior after TP53 overexpression or knockdown. The biomarker identified DDI chemicals that were strong inducers of p53 in wild-type cells; these p53 responses were decreased or abolished in cells after p53 knockdown by siRNAs. Using the biomarker, we screened ∼1950 chemicals in ∼9800 human cell line chemical vs control comparisons and identified ∼100 chemicals that caused p53 activation. Among the positive chemicals were many that are known to activate p53 through direct and indirect DNA damaging mechanisms. These results contribute to the evidence that the TGx-DDI biomarker is useful for identifying chemicals that cause DDI and activate p53.

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