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Mutat Res. 2011 Feb 10;707(1-2):24-33. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2010.12.003. Epub 2010 Dec 13.

Radiation-induced epigenetic alterations after low and high LET irradiations.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Epigenetics, including DNA methylation and microRNA (miRNA) expression, could be the missing link in understanding radiation-induced genomic instability (RIGI). This study tests the hypothesis that irradiation induces epigenetic aberrations, which could eventually lead to RIGI, and that the epigenetic aberrations induced by low linear energy transfer (LET) irradiation are different than those induced by high LET irradiations. GM10115 cells were irradiated with low LET X-rays and high LET iron (Fe) ions and evaluated for DNA damage, cell survival and chromosomal instability. The cells were also evaluated for specific locus methylation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NFκB), tumor suppressor in lung cancer 1 (TSLC1) and cadherin 1 (CDH1) gene promoter regions, long interspersed nuclear element 1 (LINE-1) and Alu repeat element methylation, CpG and non-CpG global methylation and miRNA expression levels. Irradiated cells showed increased micronucleus induction and cell killing immediately following exposure, but were chromosomally stable at delayed times post-irradiation. At this same delayed time, alterations in repeat element and global DNA methylation and miRNA expression were observed. Analyses of DNA methylation predominantly showed hypomethylation, however hypermethylation was also observed. We demonstrate that miRNA expression levels can be altered after X-ray irradiation and that these miRNA are involved in chromatin remodeling and DNA methylation. A higher incidence of epigenetic changes was observed after exposure to X-rays than Fe ions even though Fe ions elicited more chromosomal damage and cell killing. This distinction is apparent at miRNA analyses at which only three miRNA involved in two major pathways were altered after high LET irradiations while six miRNA involved in five major pathways were altered after low LET irradiations. This study also shows that the irradiated cells acquire epigenetic changes suggesting that epigenetic aberrations may arise in the cell without initiating chromosomal instability.

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