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Cell Cycle. 2010 Aug 1;9(15):3005-11. Epub 2010 Aug 7.

Ionizing radiation and hematopoietic malignancies: altering the adaptive landscape.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado, USA.


Somatic evolution, which underlies tumor progression, is driven by two essential components: (1) diversification of phenotypes through heritable mutations and epigenetic changes and (2) selection for mutant clones which possess higher fitness. Exposure to ionizing radiation (IR ) is highly associated with increased risk of carcinogenesis. This link is traditionally attributed to causation of oncogenic mutations through the mutagenic effects of irradiation. On the other hand, potential effects of irradiation on altering fitness and increasing selection for mutant clones are frequently ignored. Recent studies bring the effects of irradiation on fitness and selection into focus, demonstrating that IR exposure results in stable reductions in the fitness of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell populations. These reductions of fitness are associated with alteration of the adaptive landscape, increasing the selective advantages conferred by certain oncogenic mutations. Therefore, the link between irradiation and carcinogenesis might be more complex than traditionally appreciated: while mutagenic effects of irradiation should increase the probability of occurrence of oncogenic mutations, IR can also work as a tumor promoter, increasing the selective expansion of clones bearing mutations which become advantageous in the irradiation-altered environment, such as activated mutations in Notch1 or disrupting mutations in p53.

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