Genomic instability and bystander effects induced by high-LET radiation

Eric J Hall, Tom K Hei
Oncogene 2003 October 13, 22 (45): 7034-42
An understanding of the radiobiological effects of high-linear energy transfer (LET) radiation is essential for radiation protection and human risk assessment. Ever since the discovery of X-rays was made by Röntgen more than a century ago, it has always been accepted that the deleterious effects of ionizing radiation, such as mutation and carcinogenesis, are due mainly to direct damage to DNA. With the availability of a precision single-particle microbeam, it is possible to demonstrate, unequivocally, the presence of a bystander effect with many biological end points. These studies provide clear evidence that irradiated cells can induce a bystander mutagenic response in neighboring cells not directly traversed by alpha-particles, and that cell-cell communication processes play a critical role in mediating the bystander phenomenon. Following exposure to high-LET radiation, immortalized human bronchial (BEP2D) and breast (MCF-10F) cells have been shown to undergo malignant transformation through a series of successive steps, before becoming tumorigenic in nude mice. There is a progressive increase in genomic instability, determined either by gene amplification or allelic imbalance, with the highest incidence observed among established tumor cell lines, relative to transformed, nontumorigenic and control cell lines.

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