Normal mammalian cells arrest primarily in G1 in response to N-(phosphonacetyl)-l-aspartate (PALA), which starves them for pyrimidine nucleotides, and do not generate or tolerate amplification of the CAD gene, which confers resistance to PALA. Loss of p53, accompanied by loss of G1 arrest, permits CAD gene amplification and the consequent formation of PALA-resistant colonies. We have found rat and human cell lines that retain wild-type p53 but have lost the ability to arrest in G1 in response to PALA. However, these cells still fail to give PALA-resistant colonies and are protected from DNA damage through the operation of a second checkpoint that arrests them reversibly within S-phase. This S-phase arrest, unmasked in the absence of the G1 checkpoint, is dependent on p53 and independent of p21/waf1
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