Estimating the selective advantage of mutant p53 tumour cells to repeated rounds of hypoxia.
Gammack D., Byrne HM., Lewis CE.
The tumour suppressor gene, p53, plays an important role in tumour development. Under low levels of oxygen (hypoxia), cells expressing wild-type p53 undergo programmed cell death (apoptosis), whereas cells expressing mutations in the p53 gene may survive and express angiogenic growth factors that stimulate tumour vascularization. Given that cells expressing mutations in the p53 gene have been observed in many forms of human tumour, it is important to understand how both wild-type and mutant cells react to hypoxic conditions. In this paper a mathematical model is presented to investigate the effects of alternating periods of hypoxia and normoxia (normal oxygen levels) on a population of wild-type and mutant p53 tumour cells. The model consists of three coupled ordinary differential equations that describe the densities of the two cell types and the oxygen concentration and, as such, may describe the growth of avascular tumours in vitro and/or in vivo. Numerical and analytical techniques are used to determine how changes in the system parameters influence the time at which mutant cells become dominant within the population. A feedback mechanism, which switches off the oxygen supply when the total cell density exceeds a threshold value, is introduced into the model to investigate the impact that vessel collapse (and the associated hypoxia) has on the time at which the mutant cells become dominant within vascular tumours growing in vivo. Using the model we can predict the time it takes for a subpopulation of mutant p53 tumour cells to become the dominant population within either an avascular tumour or a localized region of a vascular tumour. Based on independent experimental results, our model suggests that the mutant population becomes dominant more quickly in vivo than in vitro (12 days vs 17 days).