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Mutat Res. 2011 Oct 1;715(1-2):1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2011.06.017. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

Ionizing radiation is a potent inducer of mitotic recombination in mouse embryonic stem cells.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Rutgers University, Piscataway, 145 Bevier Rd, NJ 08854, United States.


Maintenance of genomic integrity in embryonic cells is pivotal to proper embryogenesis, organogenesis and to the continuity of species. Cultured mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs), a model for early embryonic cells, differ from cultured somatic cells in their capacity to remodel chromatin, in their repertoire of DNA repair enzymes, and in the regulation of cell cycle checkpoints. Using 129XC3HF1 mESCs heterozygous for Aprt, we characterized loss of Aprt heterozygosity after exposure to ionizing radiation. We report here that the frequency of loss of heterozygosity mutants in mESCs can be induced several hundred-fold by exposure to 5-10Gy of X-rays. This induction is 50-100-fold higher than the induction reported for mouse adult or embryonic fibroblasts. The primary mechanism underlying the elevated loss of heterozygosity after irradiation is mitotic recombination, with lesser contributions from deletions and gene conversions that span Aprt. Aprt point mutations and epigenetic inactivation are very rare in mESCs compared to fibroblasts. Mouse ESCs, therefore, are distinctive in their response to ionizing radiation and studies of differentiated cells may underestimate the mutagenic effects of ionizing radiation on ESC or other stem cells. Our findings are important to understanding the biological effects of ionizing radiation on early development and carcinogenesis.

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