Survival of human epithelial cells irradiated with cobalt 60 as microcolonies or single cells
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Microcolonies of one to >50 cells were irradiated. They were assayed for survival using the Puck and Marcus clonogenic technique and the distant progeny were tested for expression of lethal mutations. The results show that epithelial cell colonies appear to respond as a unit rather than as individual cells to a radiation dose and the uncorrected initial surviving fraction is relatively constant irrespective of the number of cells present at the time the microcolony was irradiated. Irradiation of colonies or monolayers, which were then dispersed, confirmed this and showed slight sparing of the cells irradiated in contact compared with single cells but no sparing effect when the gap junctions were closed. Measurement of apoptosis 2 h post-irradiation showed higher levels in clones derived from cells irradiated in contact but delayed apoptosis in the progeny and lethal mutations appear to be associated with irradiation of single cells. Lethal mutations occurred in the progeny of cells irradiated as single cells for at least 30 cell generations but if cell microcolonies were irradiated the progeny survival showed a complex relationship with progenitor dose. When gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC) was blocked during and immediately post-irradiation using nitrosamines or TPA, cultures regained the initial survival and lethal mutation frequency seen with single cells. It is concluded that the presence of more than one cell in a microcolony at the time of irradiation does result in an altered and possibly a co-ordinated pattern of survival and lethal mutation expression but that inhibition of GJIC can reverse the effects of contact. The results may have implications for investigations of normal tissue response.
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