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Haematologica. 2010 Dec;95(12):1996-2004. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2010.026492. Epub 2010 Sep 7.

Delta-tocotrienol protects mouse and human hematopoietic progenitors from gamma-irradiation through extracellular signal-regulated kinase/mammalian target of rapamycin signaling.

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  • 1Radiation Countermeasures Program, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 8901 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20889-5603, USA.



Exposure to γ-radiation causes rapid hematopoietic cell apoptosis and bone marrow suppression. However, there are no approved radiation countermeasures for the acute radiation syndrome. In this study, we demonstrated that natural δ-tocotrienol, one of the isomers of vitamin E, significantly enhanced survival in total body lethally irradiated mice. We explored the effects and mechanisms of δ-tocotrienol on hematopoietic progenitor cell survival after γ-irradiation in both in vivo and in vitro experiments.


CD2F1 mice and human hematopoietic progenitor CD34(+) cells were treated with δ-tocotrienol or vehicle control 24 h before or 6 h after γ-irradiation. Effects of δ-tocotrienol on hematopoietic progenitor cell survival and regeneration were evaluated by clonogenicity studies, flow cytometry, and bone marrow histochemical staining. δ-tocotrienol and γ-irradiation-induced signal regulatory activities were assessed by immunofluorescence staining, immunoblotting and short-interfering RNA assay.


δ-tocotrienol displayed significant radioprotective effects. A single injection of δ-tocotrienol protected 100% of CD2F1 mice from total body irradiation-induced death as measured by 30-day post-irradiation survival. δ-tocotrienol increased cell survival, and regeneration of hematopoietic microfoci and lineage(-)/Sca-1(+)/ckit(+) stem and progenitor cells in irradiated mouse bone marrow, and protected human CD34(+) cells from radiation-induced damage. δ-tocotrienol activated extracellular signal-related kinase 1/2 phosphorylation and significantly inhibited formation of DNA-damage marker γ-H2AX foci. In addition, δ-tocotrienol up-regulated mammalian target of rapamycin and phosphorylation of its downstream effector 4EBP-1. These alterations were associated with activation of mRNA translation regulator eIF4E and ribosomal protein S6, which is responsible for cell survival and growth. Inhibition of extracellular signal-related kinase 1/2 expression by short interfering RNA abrogated δ-tocotrienol-induced mammalian target of rapamycin phosphorylation and clonogenicity, and increased γ-H2AX foci formation in irradiated CD34(+) cells.


Our data indicate that δ-tocotrienol protects mouse bone marrow and human CD34(+) cells from radiation-induced damage through extracellular signal-related kinase activation-associated mammalian target of rapamycin survival pathways.

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