Thoracic radiation therapy can cause endothelial injury in the heart, leading to cardiac dysfunction and heart failure. Although it has been demonstrated that the tumor suppressor p53 functions in endothelial cells to prevent the development of radiation-induced myocardial injury, the key mechanism(s) by which p53 regulates the radiosensitivity of cardiac endothelial cells is not completely understood. Here, we utilized genetically engineered mice that express mutations in p53 transactivation domain 1 (TAD1) (p5325,26) or mutations in p53 TAD1 and TAD2 (p5325,26,53,54) specifically in endothelial cells to study the p53 transcriptional program that protects cardiac endothelial cells from ionizing radiation in vivo. p5325,26,53,54 loses the ability to drive transactivation of p53 target genes after irradiation while p5325,26 can induce transcription of a group of non-canonical p53 target genes, but not the majority of classic radiation-induced p53 targets critical for p53-mediated cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. After 12 Gy whole-heart irradiation, we found that both p5325,26 and p5325,26,53,54 sensitized mice to radiation-induced cardiac injury, in contrast to wild-type p53. Histopathological examination suggested that mutation of TAD1 contributes to myocardial necrosis after whole-heart irradiation, while mutation of both TAD1 and TAD2 abolishes the ability of p53 to prevent radiation-induced heart disease. Taken together, our results show that the transcriptional program downstream of p53 TAD1, which activates the acute DNA damage response after irradiation, is necessary to protect cardiac endothelial cells from radiation injury in vivo.
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Vol. 198 • No. 2