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Int J Radiat Biol. 2003 Jan;79(1):15-25.

Radiation-induced genomic instability and bystander effects: related inflammatory-type responses to radiation-induced stress and injury? A review.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, University of Dundee, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK.



To review studies of radiation responses in the haemopoietic system in the context of radiation-induced genomic instability, bystander effects and inflammatory-type processes.


There is considerable evidence that cells that themselves are not exposed to ionizing radiation but are the progeny of cells irradiated many cell divisions previously may express a high frequency of gene mutations, chromosomal aberrations and cell death. These effects are collectively known as radiation-induced genomic instability. A second untargeted effect results in non-irradiated cells exhibiting responses typically associated with direct radiation exposure but occurs as a consequence of contact with irradiated cells or by receiving soluble signals from irradiated cells. These effects are collectively known as radiation-induced bystander effects. Reported effects include increases or decreases in damage-inducible and stress-related proteins; increases or decreases in reactive oxygen species, cell death or cell proliferation, and induction of mutations and chromosome aberrations. This array of responses is reminiscent of effects mediated by cytokines and other similar regulatory factors that may involve, but do not necessarily require, gap junction-mediated transfer, have multiple inducers and a variety of context-dependent consequences in different cell systems. That chromosomal instability in haemopoietic cells can be induced by an indirect bystander-type mechanism both in vitro and in vivo provides a potential link between these two untargeted effects and there are radiation responses in vivo consistent with the microenvironment contributing secondary cell damage as a consequence of an inflammatory-type response to radiation-induced injury. Intercellular signalling, production of cytokines and free radicals are features of inflammatory responses that have the potential for both bystander-mediated and persisting damage as well as for conferring a predisposition to malignancy. The induction of bystander effects and instabilities may reflect interrelated aspects of a non-specific inflammatory-type response to radiation-induced stress and injury and be involved in a variety of the pathological consequences of radiation exposures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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