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Radiat Res. 2009 May;171(5):513-20. doi: 10.1667/RR1658.1.

Propagation distance of the alpha-particle-induced bystander effect: the role of nuclear traversal and gap junction communication.

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  • 1a Laboratoire de Chimie Physique et Rayonnements Alain Chambaudet, UMR CEA E4, Université de Franche-Comté, 25030 Besançon Cedex, France.


When cell populations are exposed to low-dose alpha-particle radiation, a significant fraction of the cells will not be traversed by a radiation track. However, stressful effects occur in both irradiated and bystander cells in the population. Characterizing these effects, and investigating their underlying mechanism(s), is critical to understanding human health risks associated with exposure to alpha particles. To this end, confluent normal human fibroblast cultures were grown on polyethylene terephthalate foil grafted to an ultrathin solid-state nuclear track detector and exposed under non-perturbing conditions to low-fluence alpha particles from a broadbeam irradiator. Irradiated and affected bystander cells were localized with micrometer precision. The stress-responsive protein p21(Waf1) (also known as CDKN1A) was induced in bystander cells within a 100-microm radius from an irradiated cell. The mean propagation distance ranged from 20 to 40 microm around the intranuclear alpha-particle impact point, which corresponds to a set of approximately 30 cells. Nuclear traversal, induced DNA damage, and gap junction communication were critical contributors to propagation of this stressful effect. The strategy described here may be ideal to investigate the size of radiation-affected target and the relative contribution of different cellular organelles to bystander effects induced by energetic particles, which is relevant to radioprotection and cancer radiotherapy.

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