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Radiat Res. 2010 Apr;173(4):469-78. doi: 10.1667/RR1742.1.

Influence of sublethal total-body irradiation on immune cell populations in the intestinal mucosa.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


The intestinal immune system is the largest in the body. This study analyzed changes in intestinal immune cell populations, cytokine protein levels, and transcript profiles after total-body irradiation (TBI) in CD2F1 mice. A single dose of 8.0 Gy gamma radiation caused negligible 30-day lethality but induced significant histological damage in jejunal mucosa that was maximal at 3.5 days and that had seemingly recovered by day 21 after irradiation. These changes were accompanied by decreased numbers of mucosal macrophages, neutrophils, and B and T lymphocytes, mostly coinciding with similar reductions in peripheral blood cell counts. Recovery of mucosal macrophages occurred within 1 week, whereas mucosal granulocytes and lymphocytes remained low until 3 weeks after TBI. Maximal suppression of T-helper cell (T(H))-related transcripts occurred at 3.5 days, but there was no obvious T(H)1 or T(H)2 bias. Genome-wide transcriptional profiling revealed a preponderance of differentially regulated genes involved in cell cycle control, cell death and DNA repair between 4 h and 3.5 days after irradiation. Genes involved in tissue recovery predominated from day 7 onward. We conclude that the intestinal immune system undergoes profound changes after sublethal TBI and that these changes likely contribute to postirradiation pathophysiological manifestations.

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