Apoptosis is signalled early by low doses of ionising radiation in a radiation-induced bystander effect
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It is known that ionising radiation (IR) induces a complex signalling apoptotic cascade post-exposure to low doses ultimately to remove damaged cells from a population, specifically via the intrinsic pathway. Therefore, it was hypothesised that bystander reporter cells may initiate a similar apoptotic response if exposed to low doses of IR (0.05Gy and 0.5Gy) and compared to directly irradiated cells. Key apoptotic genes were selected according to their role in the apoptotic cascade; tumour suppressor gene TP53, pro-apoptotic Bax and anti-apoptotic Bcl2, pro-apoptotic JNK and anti-apoptotic ERK, initiator caspase 2 and 9 and effector caspase 3, 6 and 7. The data generated consolidated the role of apoptosis following direct IR exposure for all doses and time points as pro-apoptotic genes such as Bax and JNK as well as initiator caspase 7 and effector caspase 3 and 9 were up-regulated. However, the gene expression profile for the bystander response was quite different and more complex in comparison to the direct response. The 0.05Gy dose point had a more significant apoptosis gene expression profile compared to the 0.5Gy dose point and genes were not always expressed within 1h but were sometimes expressed 24h later. The bystander data clearly demonstrates initiation of the apoptotic cascade by the up-regulation of TP53, Bax, Bcl-2, initiator caspase 2 and effector caspase 6. The effector caspases 3 and 7 of the bystander samples demonstrated down-regulation in their gene expression levels at 0.05Gy and 0.5Gy at both time points therefore not fully executing the apoptotic pathway. Extensive analysis of the mean-fold gene expression changes of bystander data demonstrated that the apoptosis is initiated in the up-regulation of pro-apoptotic and initiator genes but may not very well be executed to final stages of cell death due to down-regulation of effector genes.
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