High Yields of Lethal Mutations in Somatic Mammalian Cells that Survive Ionizing Radiation Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • When mammalian cells are irradiated in vitro, the component cells of a normal-appearing survivor colony or clone are commonly thought to have proliferative capacity equivalent to that of the unirradiated cells. We have found, however, that cells appearing in survivor colonies may carry heritable lethal defects which come to light, perhaps only after numerous successful divisions, in the form of plating efficiencies that are reduced below those of unirradiated cells in a dose-dependent manner. We regard these heritable defects as signs of the induction of lethal mutations, which, like non-lethal mutations, may require many generations before they are expressed. This effect has been noted in two very dissimilar mammalian cell lines, one a primary culture from adult tissue, the other an immortal cell line. We suggest that induction of lethal mutations may occur also in somatic cells in vivo; this would account for the well-known observation that previously irradiated but apparently healed tissue is subsequently proved to be extraordinarily sensitive to subsequent exposure to irradiation or cytotoxic drugs. The results of our experiments in vitro suggest that current methods of estimating mutation or transformation yields may yield underestimates. If lethal mutations are induced also in vivo, interpretations of the results of fractionation experiments on normal tissues may have to be reconsidered.

publication date

  • January 1986