Transgenic mice expressing the c-Myc oncogene driven by the immunoglobulin heavy chain enhancer (Eμ) develop B-cell lymphoma and exhibit a mean survival time of approximately 6 months. The protracted latent period before the onset of frank disease likely reflects the ability of c-Myc to induce a p53-dependent apoptotic program that initially protects animals against tumor formation but is disabled when overtly malignant cells emerge. In cultured primary mouse embryo fibroblasts, c-Myc activates the p19(ARF)- Mdm2-p53 tumor suppressor pathway, enhancing p53-dependent apoptosis but ultimately selecting for surviving immortalized cells that have sustained either p53 mutation or biallelic ARF deletion. Here we report that p53 and ARF also potentiate Myc-induced apoptosis in primary pre-B-cell cultures, and that spontaneous inactivation of the ARF-Mdm2-p53 pathway occurs frequently in tumors arising in Eμ-myc transgenic mice. Many Eμ-myc lymphomas sustained either p53 (28%) or ARF (24%) loss of function, whereas Mdm2 levels were elevated in others. Its overexpression in some tumors lacking p53 function raises the possibility that Mdm2 can contribute to lymphomagenesis by interacting with other targets. Eμ-myc transgenic mice hemizygous for ARF displayed accelerated disease (11-week mean survival), and 80% of these tumors lost the wild-type ARF allele. All ARF-null Eμ-myc mice died of lymphoma within a few weeks of birth. About half of the tumors arising in ARF hemizygous or ARF nullizygous Eμ-myc transgenic mice also overexpressed Mdm2. Therefore, Myc activation strongly selects for spontaneous inactivation of the ARF-Mdm2-p53 pathway in vivo, canceling its protective checkpoint function and accelerating progression to malignancy.
- B-cell lymphoma