Ogrunc, M., Di Micco, R., Liontos, M., Bombardelli, L., Mione, M., Fumagalli, M., Gorgoulis, V.G., d'Adda di Fagagna, F. (2014) Oncogene-induced reactive oxygen species fuel hyperproliferation and DNA damage response activation. Cell death and differentiation. 21:998-1012.
Oncogene-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been proposed to be signaling molecules that mediate proliferative cues. However, ROS may also cause DNA damage and proliferative arrest. How these apparently opposite roles can be reconciled, especially in the context of oncogene-induced cellular senescence, which is associated both with aberrant mitogenic signaling and DNA damage response (DDR)-mediated arrest, is unclear. Here, we show that ROS are indeed mitogenic signaling molecules that fuel oncogene-driven aberrant cell proliferation. However, by their very same ability to mediate cell hyperproliferation, ROS eventually cause DDR activation. We also show that oncogenic Ras-induced ROS are produced in a Rac1 and NADPH oxidase (Nox4)-dependent manner. In addition, we show that Ras-induced ROS can be detected and modulated in a living transparent animal: the zebrafish. Finally, in cancer we show that Nox4 is increased in both human tumors and a mouse model of pancreatic cancer and specific Nox4 small-molecule inhibitors act synergistically with existing chemotherapic agents.