Manifestations and mechanisms of non-targeted effects of ionizing radiation

Eric G Wright
Mutation Research 2010 May 1, 687 (1): 28-33
A well-established radiobiological paradigm is that the biological effects of ionizing radiation occur in irradiated cells as a consequence of the DNA damage they incur. However, many observations of, so-called, non-targeted effects indicate that genetic alterations are not restricted to directly irradiated cells. Non-targeted effects are responses exhibited by non-irradiated cells that are the descendants of irradiated cells (radiation-induced genomic instability) or by cells that have communicated with irradiated cells (radiation-induced bystander effects). Radiation-induced genomic instability is characterized by chromosomal abnormalities, gene mutations and cell death. Similar effects, as well as responses that may be regarded as protective, have been attributed to bystander mechanisms. The majority of studies to date have used in vitro systems but some non-targeted effects have been demonstrated in vivo and there is also evidence for radiation-induced instability in the mammalian germ line. However, there may be situations where radiation-induced genomic instability in vivo may not necessarily identify genomically unstable somatic cells but the manifestation of responses to ongoing production of damaging signals generated by genotype-dependent mechanisms having properties in common with inflammatory processes. Non-targeted mechanisms have significant implications for understanding mechanisms of radiation action but the current state of knowledge does not permit definitive statements about whether these phenomena have implications for assessing radiation risk.

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