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Mutat Res. 2011 Aug 1;713(1-2):32-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2011.05.010. Epub 2011 May 27.

Radiation-induced bystander effect in healthy G(o) human lymphocytes: biological and clinical significance.

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  • 1Department of Agrobiology and Agrochemistry, University of Tuscia, Via San Camillo De Lellis, I-01100 Viterbo, Italy.


To study the bystander effects, G(0) human peripheral blood lymphocytes were X-irradiated with 0.1, 0.5 and 3 Gy. After 24h, cell-free conditioned media from irradiated cultures were transferred to unexposed lymphocytes. Following 48 h of medium transfer, viability, induction of apoptosis, telomere shortening, reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and micronuclei (after stimulation) were analyzed. A statistically significant decrement in cell viability, concomitant with the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, telomere shortening, increases in hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) and superoxide anion (O(2)(-)) with depletion of intracellular glutathione (GSH) level, and higher frequencies of micronuclei, were observed in bystander lymphocytes incubated with medium from 0.5 and 3 Gy irradiated samples, compared to lymphocytes unexposed. Furthermore, no statistically significant difference between the response to 0.5 and 3 Gy of irradiation in bystander lymphocytes, was found. However, when lymphocytes were irradiated with 0.1 Gy, no bystander effect with regard to viability, apoptosis, telomere length, and micronuclei was observed, although a high production of ROS level persisted. Radiation in the presence of the radical scavenger dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) suppressed oxidative stress induced by 3 Gy of X-rays with the effective elimination of bystander effects, suggesting a correlation between ROS and bystander signal formation in irradiated cells. The data propose that bystander effect might be mostly due to the reactions of radiation induced free radicals on DNA, with the existence of a threshold at which the bystander signal is not operative (0.1 Gy dose of X-rays). Our results may have clinical implications for health risk associated with radiation exposure.

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