Normal tissue toxicity reduces the therapeutic index of radiotherapy and decreases the quality of life for cancer survivors. Apoptosis is a key element of the radiation response in normal tissues like the hippocampus and small intestine, resulting in neurocognitive disorders and intestinal malabsorption. The Early Growth Response 1 (Egr1) transcription factor mediates radiation-induced apoptosis by activating the transcription of proapoptosis genes in response to ionizing radiation (IR). Therefore, we hypothesized that the genetic abrogation of Egr1 and the pharmacologic inhibition of its transcriptional activity could attenuate radiation-induced apoptosis in normal tissues. We demonstrated that Egr1-null mice had less apoptosis in the hippocampus and intestine following irradiation as compared with their wild-type littermates. A similar result was achieved using Mithramycin A (MMA) to prevent binding of Egr1 to target promoters in the mouse intestine. Abolishing Egr1 expression using shRNA dampened apoptosis and enhanced the clonogenic survival of irradiated HT22 hippocampal neuronal cells and IEC6 intestinal epithelial cells. Mechanistically, these events involved an abrogation of p53 induction by IR and an increase in the ratio of Bcl-2/Bax expression. In contrast, targeted silencing of Egr1 in two cancer cell lines (GL261 glioma cells and HCT116 colorectal cancer cells) was not radioprotective, since it reduced their growth while also sensitizing them to radiation-induced death. Further, Egr1 depletion delayed the growth of heterotopically implanted GL261 and HCT116 tumors. These results support the potential of silencing Egr1 in order to minimize the normal tissue complications associated with radiotherapy while enhancing tumor control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2343-2352
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Cancer Therapeutics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


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