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Radiat Res. 2011 Mar;175(3):282-90. doi: 10.1667/RR2125.1. Epub 2010 Dec 28.

Adapting the γ-H2AX assay for automated processing in human lymphocytes. 1. Technological aspects.

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  • 1Center for Radiological Research, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York 10032, USA.


The immunofluorescence-based detection of γ-H2AX is a reliable and sensitive method for quantitatively measuring DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in irradiated samples. Since H2AX phosphorylation is highly linear with radiation dose, this well-established biomarker is in current use in radiation biodosimetry. At the Center for High-Throughput Minimally Invasive Radiation Biodosimetry, we have developed a fully automated high-throughput system, the RABIT (Rapid Automated Biodosimetry Tool), that can be used to measure γ-H2AX yields from fingerstick-derived samples of blood. The RABIT workstation has been designed to fully automate the γ-H2AX immunocytochemical protocol, from the isolation of human blood lymphocytes in heparin-coated PVC capillaries to the immunolabeling of γ-H2AX protein and image acquisition to determine fluorescence yield. High throughput is achieved through the use of purpose-built robotics, lymphocyte handling in 96-well filter-bottomed plates, and high-speed imaging. The goal of the present study was to optimize and validate the performance of the RABIT system for the reproducible and quantitative detection of γ-H2AX total fluorescence in lymphocytes in a multiwell format. Validation of our biodosimetry platform was achieved by the linear detection of a dose-dependent increase in γ-H2AX fluorescence in peripheral blood samples irradiated ex vivo with γ rays over the range 0 to 8 Gy. This study demonstrates for the first time the optimization and use of our robotically based biodosimetry workstation to successfully quantify γ-H2AX total fluorescence in irradiated peripheral lymphocytes.

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