Gamma radiation-induced heritable mutations at repetitive DNA loci in out-bred mice
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Recent studies have shown that expanded-simple-tandem-repeat (ESTR) DNA loci are efficient genetic markers for detecting radiation-induced germline mutations in mice. Dose responses following irradiation, however, have only been characterized in a small number of inbred mouse strains, and no studies have applied ESTRs to examine potential modifiers of radiation risk, such as adaptive response. We gamma-irradiated groups of male out-bred Swiss-Webster mice with single acute doses of 0.5 and 1.0 Gy, and compared germline mutation rates at ESTR loci to a sham-irradiated control. To test for evidence of adaptive response we treated a third group with a total dose of 1.1 Gy that was fractionated into a 0.1 Gy adapting dose, followed by a challenge dose of 1.0 Gy 24h later. Paternal mutation rates were significantly elevated above the control in the 0.5 Gy (2.8-fold) and 1.0 Gy (3.0-fold) groups, but were similar to each other despite the difference in radiation dose. The doubling dose for paternal mutation induction was 0.26 Gy (95% CI = 0.14-0.51 Gy). Males adapted with a 0.1 Gy dose prior to a 1.0 Gy challenge dose had mutation rates that were not significantly elevated above the control, and were 43% reduced compared to those receiving single doses. We conclude that pre-meiotic male germ cells in out-bred Swiss-Webster mice are sensitive to ESTR mutations induced by acute doses of ionizing radiation, but mutation induction may become saturated at a lower dose than in some strains of inbred mice. Reduced mutation rates in the adapted group provide intriguing evidence for suppression of ESTR mutations in the male germline through adaptive response. Repetitive DNA markers may be useful tools for exploration of biological factors affecting the probability of heritable mutations caused by low-dose ionizing radiation exposure. The biological significance of ESTR mutations in terms of radiation risk assessment, however, is still undetermined.