The spatial distribution of radiation-induced DNA breaks within the cell nucleus depends on radiation quality in terms of energy deposition pattern. It is generally assumed that the higher the radiation linear energy transfer (LET), the greater the DNA damage complexity. Using a combined experimental and theoretical approach, we examined the phosphorylation-dephosphorylation kinetics of radiation-induced γ-H2AX foci, size distribution and 3D focus morphology, and the relationship between DNA damage and cellular end points (i.e., cell killing and lethal mutations) after exposure to gamma rays, protons, carbon ions and alpha particles. Our results showed that the maximum number of foci are reached 30 min postirradiation for all radiation types. However, the number of foci after 0.5 Gy of each radiation type was different with gamma rays, protons, carbon ions and alpha particles inducing 12.64 ± 0.25, 10.11 ± 0.40, 8.84 ± 0.56 and 4.80 ± 0.35 foci, respectively, which indicated a clear influence of the track structure and fluence on the numbers of foci induced after a dose of 0.5 Gy for each radiation type. The γ-H2AX foci persistence was also dependent on radiation quality, i.e., the higher the LET, the longer the foci persisted in the cell nucleus. The γ-H2AX time course was compared with cell killing and lethal mutation and the results highlighted a correlation between cellular end points and the duration of γ-H2AX foci persistence. A model was developed to evaluate the probability that multiple DSBs reside in the same gamma-ray focus and such probability was found to be negligible for doses lower than 1 Gy. Our model provides evidence that the DSBs inside complex foci, such as those induced by alpha particles, are not processed independently or with the same time constant. The combination of experimental, theoretical and simulation data supports the hypothesis of an interdependent processing of closely associated DSBs, possibly associated with a diminished correct repair capability, which affects cell killing and lethal mutation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging