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Fibrogenesis Tissue Repair. 2013 Feb 4;6(1):4. doi: 10.1186/1755-1536-6-4.

Comparison of acute proton, photon, and low-dose priming effects on genes associated with extracellular matrix and adhesion molecules in the lungs.

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Department of Radiation Medicine, Radiation Research Laboratories and Department of Basic Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, USA.
Department of Pathological Anatomy, Nantong University, Nantong, China.
Department of Otolaryngology, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, California, 92354, USA.
Contributed equally



Crew members on space missions inevitably are exposed to low background radiation and can receive much higher doses during solar particle events (SPE) that consist primarily of protons. Ionizing radiation could cause lung pathologies. Cell adhesion molecules (CAM) are believed to participate in fibrogenesis. Interactions between CAM and extracellular matrix (ECM) affect epithelial repair mechanisms in the lung. However, there are very limited data on biological effects of protons on normal lung tissue. Numerous reports have shown that exposure to low-dose/low-dose-rate (LDR) radiation can result in radioadaptation that renders cells more resistant to subsequent acute radiation. The goal of this study was to compare expression of genes associated with ECM and CAM, as well as critical profibrotic mediators, in mouse lungs after acute irradiation with photons and protons, and also determine whether pre-exposure to LDR γ-rays induces an adaptive effect.


Overall, a marked difference was present in the proton vs. photon groups in gene expression. When compared to 0 Gy, more genes were affected by protons than by photons at both time points (11 vs. 6 on day 21 and 14 vs. 8 on day 56), and all genes affected by protons were upregulated. Many genes were modulated by LDR γ-rays when combined with photons or protons. Col1a1, mmp14, and mmp15 were significantly upregulated by all radiation regimens on day 21. Similarly, the change in expression of profibrotic proteins was also detected after acute and combination irradiation.


These data show that marked differences were present between acutely delivered protons and photons in modulating genes, and the effect of protons was more profound than that of photons. Pre-exposure to LDR γ-rays 'normalized' some genes that were modified by acute irradiation.

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