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J Radiat Res. 2009 Mar;50 Suppl A:A49-54.

Microbeam irradiation of the C. elegans nematode.

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Center for Radiological Research, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The understanding of complex radiation responses in biological systems, such as non-targeted effects as represented by the bystander response, can be enhanced by the use of genetically amenable model organisms. Almost all bystander studies to date have been carried out by using conventional single-cell in vitro systems, which are useful tools to characterize basic cellular and molecular responses. A few studies have been reported in monolayer explants and bystander responses have been also investigated in a three-dimensional normal human tissue system. However, despite the well-know usefulness of in vitro models, they cannot capture the complexity of radiation responses of living systems such as animal models. To carry out in vivo studies on the bystander effect we have developed a new technique to expose living organisms using proton microbeams. We report the use of a nematode C. elegans strain with a Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) reporter for the hsp-4 heat-shock gene as an in vivo model for radiation studies. Exposing animals to heat and chemicals stressors leads to whole body increases in the hsp-4 protein reflected by enhanced fluorescence. We report here that gamma-rays also can induce stress response in a dose dependent manner. However, whole body exposure to stress agents does not allow for evaluation of distance dependent response in non targeted tissues: the so-called bystander effect. We used the RARAF microbeam to site specifically deliver 3 MeV protons to a site in the tail of young worms. GFP expression was enhanced after 24 hours in a number dependent manner at distances > 100 microm from the site of irradiation.

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