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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2012 Oct 1;84(2):500-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2011.12.033. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

Exposure to ionizing radiation causes long-term increase in serum estradiol and activation of PI3K-Akt signaling pathway in mouse mammary gland.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057-1468, USA.



Exposure to ionizing radiation is an established risk factor for breast cancer. Radiation exposure during infancy, childhood, and adolescence confers the highest risk. Although radiation is a proven mammary carcinogen, it remains unclear where it acts in the complex multistage process of breast cancer development. In this study, we investigated the long-term pathophysiologic effects of ionizing radiation at a dose (2 Gy) relevant to fractionated radiotherapy.


Adolescent (6-8 weeks old; n = 10) female C57BL/6J mice were exposed to 2 Gy total body γ-radiation, the mammary glands were surgically removed, and serum and urine samples were collected 2 and 12 months after exposure. Molecular pathways involving estrogen receptor-α (ERα) and phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase (PI3K)-Akt signaling were investigated by immunohistochemistry and Western blot.


Serum estrogen and urinary levels of the oncogenic estrogen metabolite (16αOHE1) were significantly increased in irradiated animals. Immunostaining for the cellular proliferative marker Ki-67 and cyclin-D1 showed increased nuclear accumulation in sections of mammary glands from irradiated vs. control mice. Marked increase in p85α, a regulatory sub-unit of the PI3K was associated with increase in Akt, phospho-Akt, phospho-BAD, phospho-mTOR, and c-Myc in irradiated samples. Persistent increase in nuclear ERα in mammary tissues 2 and 12 months after radiation exposure was also observed.


Taken together, our data not only support epidemiologic observations associating radiation and breast cancer but also, specify molecular events that could be involved in radiation-induced breast cancer.

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