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J Radiat Res. 2011;52(3):380-6. Epub 2011 Mar 24.

The low-dose ionizing radiation stimulates cell proliferation via activation of the MAPK/ERK pathway in rat cultured mesenchymal stem cells.

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  • 1Cancer Center at the First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China.


Hormesis induced by low-dose ionizing radiation (LDIR) is often mirrored by its stimulation of cell proliferation. The mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK)/ extracellular-signal- regulated kinases (ERK) pathway is known to play important roles in cell growth. Therefore, this study was to examine the effects of LDIR on rat mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) proliferation and MAPK/ERK signaling pathway. Rat MSCs were isolated from the bone marrow from 6 to 8-week-old male Wistar rats and cultured in vitro. Exponentially growing cells within 4-5 passages were irradiated with low doses of X-rays at 20, 50, 75 and 100 mGy with a dose rate of 100 mGy/min. Cell proliferation was evaluated by counting total viable cell number with trypan-blue staining and MTT assay. Cell cycle changes were also evaluated by flow cytometry and the activation of MAPK/ERK signaling pathway was assayed by Western blotting. Results showed that LDIR at 50 and 75 mGy significantly stimulated the proliferation of rat MSCs with the most stimulating effect at 75 mGy. There was a significant increase in the proportion of S phase cells in MSCs in response to 75 mGy X-rays. Activation of several members in the MAPK/ERK signaling pathway, including c-Raf, MEK and ERK were observed in the cells exposed to 75 mGy X-rays. To define the role of ERK activation in LDIR-stimulated cell proliferation, LDIR-treated MSCs were pre-incubated with MEK specific inhibitor U0126, which completely abolished LDIR-increased phosphorylation of ERK and cell proliferation. These results suggest that LDIR stimulates MSC proliferations in the in vitro condition via the activation of MAPK/ERK pathway.

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