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Radiat Res. 2003 Mar;159(3):401-10.

Simulation of DNA damage after proton irradiation.

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GSF-National Research Center for Environment and Health, Institute of Radiation Protection, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany.


The biophysical radiation track simulation model PARTRAC was improved by implementing new interaction cross sections for protons in water. Computer-simulated tracks of energy deposition events from protons and their secondary electrons were superimposed on a higher-order DNA target model describing the spatial coordinates of the whole genome inside a human cell. Induction of DNA double-strand breaks was simulated for proton irradiation with LET values between 1.6 and 70 keV/microm and various reference radiation qualities. The yield of DSBs after proton irradiation was found to rise continuously with increasing LET up to about 20 DSBs per Gbp and Gy, corresponding to an RBE up to 2.2. About half of this increase resulted from a higher yield of DSB clusters associated with small fragments below 10 kbp. Exclusion of experimentally unresolved multiple DSBs reduced the maximum DSB yield by 30% and shifted it to an LET of about 40 keV/microm. Simulated fragment size distributions deviated significantly from random breakage distributions over the whole size range after irradiation with protons with an LET above 10 keV/microm. Determination of DSB yields using equations derived for random breakage resulted in an underestimation by up to 20%. The inclusion of background fragments had only a minor influence on the distribution of the DNA fragments induced by radiation. Despite limited numerical agreement, the simulations reproduced the trends in proton-induced DNA DSBs and fragment induction found in recent experiments.

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