Induction and repair of DNA strand breaks in bovine lens epithelial cells after high LET irradiation

C Baumstark-Khan, J Heilmann, H Rink
Advances in Space Research: the Official Journal of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) 2003, 31 (6): 1583-91
The lens epithelium is the initiation site for the development of radiation induced cataracts. Radiation in the cortex and nucleus interacts with proteins, while in the epithelium, experimental results reveal mutagenic and cytotoxic effects. It is suggested that incorrectly repaired DNA damage may be lethal in terms of cellular reproduction and also may initiate the development of mutations or transformations in surviving cells. The occurrence of such genetically modified cells may lead to lens opacification. For a quantitative risk estimation for astronauts and space travelers it is necessary to know the relative biological effectiveness (RBE), because the spacial and temporal distribution of initial physical damage induced by cosmic radiation differ significantly from that of X-rays. RBEs for the induction of DNA strand breaks and the efficiency of repair of these breaks were measured in cultured diploid bovine lens epithelial cells exposed to different LET irradiation to either 300 kV X-rays or to heavy ions at the UNILAC accelerator at GSI. Accelerated ions from Z=8 (O) to Z=92 (U) were used. Strand breaks were measured by hydroxyapatite chromatography of alkaline unwound DNA (overall strand breaks). Results showed that DNA damage occurs as a function of dose, of kinetic energy and of LET. For particles having the same LET the severity of the DNA damage increases with dose. For a given particle dose, as the LET rises, the numbers of DNA strand breaks increase to a maximum and then reach a plateau or decrease. Repair kinetics depend on the fluence (irradiation dose). At any LET value, repair is much slower after heavy ion exposure than after X-irradiation. For ions with an LET of less than 10,000 keV micrometers-1 more than 90 percent of the strand breaks induced are repaired within 24 hours. At higher particle fluences, especially for low energetic particles with a very high local density of energy deposition within the particle track, a higher proportion of non-rejoined breaks is found, even after prolonged periods of incubation. At the highest LET value (16,300 keV micrometers-1) no significant repair is observed. These LET-dependencies are consistent with the current mechanistic model for radiation induced cataractogenesis which postulates that genomic damage to the surviving fraction of epithelial cells is responsible for lens opacification.

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