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Nat Methods. 2008 Mar;5(3):261-6. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.f.206.

Induction of linear tracks of DNA double-strand breaks by alpha-particle irradiation of cells.

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Center for Microscopical Research, Department of Cell Biology and Histology, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Understanding how cells maintain genome integrity when challenged with DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is of major importance, particularly since the discovery of multiple links of DSBs with genome instability and cancer-predisposition disorders. Ionizing radiation is the agent of choice to produce DSBs in cells; however, targeting DSBs and monitoring changes in their position over time can be difficult. Here we describe a procedure for induction of easily recognizable linear arrays of DSBs in nuclei of adherent eukaryotic cells by exposing the cells to alpha particles from a small Americium source (Box 1). Each alpha particle traversing the cell nucleus induces a linear array of DSBs, typically 10-20 DSBs per 10 mum track length. Because alpha particles cannot penetrate cell-culture plastic or coverslips, it is necessary to irradiate cells through a Mylar membrane. We describe setup and irradiation procedures for two types of experiments: immunodetection of DSB response proteins in fixed cells grown in Mylar-bottom culture dishes (Option A) and detection of fluorescently labeled DSB-response proteins in living cells irradiated through a Mylar membrane placed on top of the cells (Option B). Using immunodetection, recruitment of repair proteins to individual DSB sites as early as 30 s after irradiation can be detected. Furthermore, combined with fluorescence live-cell microscopy of fluorescently tagged DSB-response proteins, this technique allows spatiotemporal analysis of the DSB repair response in living cells. Although the procedures might seem a bit intimidating, in our experience, once the source and the setup are ready, it is easy to obtain results. Because the live-cell procedure requires more hands-on experience, we recommend starting with the fixed-cell application.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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