JOURNAL ARTICLE

The bystander effect in radiation oncogenesis: I. Transformation in C3H 10T1/2 cells in vitro can be initiated in the unirradiated neighbors of irradiated cells

S G Sawant, G Randers-Pehrson, C R Geard, D J Brenner, E J Hall
Radiation Research 2001, 155 (3): 397-401
11182789
It has long been accepted that radiation-induced genetic effects require that DNA be hit and damaged directly by the radiation. Recently, evidence has accumulated that in cell populations exposed to low doses of alpha particles, biological effects occur in a larger proportion of cells than are estimated to have been traversed by alpha particles. The end points observed include chromosome aberrations, mutations and gene expression. The development of a fast single-cell microbeam now makes it possible to expose a precisely known proportion of cells in a population to exactly defined numbers of alpha particles, and to assay for oncogenic transformation. The single-cell microbeam delivered no, one, two, four or eight alpha particles through the nuclei of all or just 10% of C3H 10T1/2 cells. We show that (a) more cells can be inactivated than were actually traversed by alpha particles and (b) when 10% of the cells on a dish are exposed to alpha particles, the resulting frequency of induced transformation is not less than that observed when every cell on the dish is exposed to the same number of alpha particles. These observations constitute evidence suggesting a bystander effect, i.e., that unirradiated cells are responding to damage induced in irradiated cells. This bystander effect in a biological system of relevance to carcinogenesis could have significant implications for risk estimation for low-dose radiation.

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