Dose– and time–response relationships for lethal mutations and chromosomal instability induced by ionizing radiation in an immortalized human keratinocyte cell line
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PURPOSE: To investigate the relationship between two well-established delayed effects of ionizing radiation, experiments were conducted to determine the induction and expression of lethal mutations (delayed reproductive death) and chromosomal instability with respect to dose and time in a human immortalized keratinocyte cell line. METHODS: HPV-G cells were gamma- or alpha-irradiated and maintained in culture for up to 72 population doublings. At intervals, measurements were made of cloning efficiency and the cells examined for apoptosis and cytogenetic aberrations. RESULTS: The descendants of cells surviving 1 or 3 Gy gamma-irradiation, but not 0.5 Gy gamma-irradiation, exhibited a reduced colony-forming efficiency. The reduction persisted at a constant rate of 15-20% clonogenic cell loss per population doubling for up to 72 population doublings. Apoptosis was demonstrated in all colonies in the 1 and 3 Gy groups at 30 and 72 population doublings post-irradiation but not in the 0.5 Gy group. A significant persistent reduction in colony-forming ability (approximately 80%) was demonstrated in the progeny of cells irradiated with 0.5 Gy alpha-particles. After 30 population doublings, the proportion of chromosomally aberrant cells was significantly greater than control values for all doses of both high- and low-LET radiations. The major cytogenetic aberrations (chromatid breaks, chromosome fragments and minutes) were consistent with the transmission of chromosomal instability. The expression of instability declined between 30 and 72 population doublings in the 0.5 Gy and 3 Gy gamma-irradiation groups, but persisted up to 72 population doublings in the 1 Gy group. The expression of chromosomal instability was greater in the descendants of alpha-irradiated cells and showed little evidence of reduction with time. CONCLUSIONS: Unstable aberrations characteristic of radiation-induced chromosomal instability may commonly result in apoptosis and account for a component of the delayed reproductive death/lethal mutation phenotype in HPV-G cells. However, the absence of lethal mutations in the descendants of 0.5 Gy gamma-irradiated cells indicates a low-LET threshold effect for this particular endpoint. Overall, and particularly at low doses, there is no direct correlation between the two endpoints, indicating the absence of a simple relationship between these manifestations of radiation-induced genomic instability.