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Math Biosci. 1992 Dec;112(2):271-303.

DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation.

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Department of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


A survey is given of continuous-time Markov chain models for ionizing radiation damage to the genome of mammalian cells. In such models, immediate damage induced by the radiation is regarded as a batch-Poisson arrival process of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). Enzymatic modification of the immediate damage is modeled as a Markov process similar to those described by the master equation of stochastic chemical kinetics. An illustrative example is the restitution/complete-exchange model. The model postulates that, after being induced by radiation, DSBs subsequently either undergo enzymatically mediated restitution (repair) or participate pairwise in chromosome exchanges. Some of the exchanges make irremediable lesions such as dicentric chromosome aberrations. One may have rapid irradiation followed by enzymatic DSB processing or have prolonged irradiation with both DSB arrival and enzymatic DSB processing continuing throughout the irradiation period. Methods for analyzing the Markov chains include using an approximate model for expected values, the discrete-time Markov chain embedded at transitions, partial differential equations for generating functions, normal perturbation theory, singular perturbation theory with scaling, numerical computations, and certain matrix methods that combine Perron-Frobenius theory with variational estimates. Applications to experimental results on expected values, variances, and statistical distributions of DNA lesions are briefly outlined. Continuous-time Markov chains are the most systematic of those radiation damage models that treat DSB-DSB interactions within the cell nucleus as homogeneous (e.g., ignore diffusion limitations). They contain virtually all other relevant homogeneous models and semiempirical summaries as special cases, limiting cases, or approximations. However, the Markov models do not seem to be well suited for studying spatial dependence of DSB interactions, which is known to be important in some situations.

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