The major adverse consequences of radiation exposures are attributed to DNA damage in irradiated cells that has not been correctly restored by metabolic repair processes. However, the dogma that genetic alterations are restricted to directly irradiated cells has been challenged by observations in which effects of ionizing radiation arise in non-irradiated cells. These, so called, untargeted effects are demonstrated in cells that are the descendants of irradiated cells either directly or via media transfer (radiation-induced genomic instability) or in cells that have communicated with irradiated cells (radiation-induced bystander effects). Radiation-induced genomic instability is characterized by a number of delayed responses including chromosomal abnormalities, gene mutations and cell death. Bystander effects include increases or decreases in damage-inducible and stress-related proteins, increases or decreases in reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, cell death or cell proliferation, cell differentiation, radioadaptation, induction of mutations and chromosome aberrations and chromosomal instability. The phenotypic expression of untargeted effects and the potential consequences of these effects in tissues reflect a balance between the type of bystander signals produced and the responses of cell populations to such signals, both of which may be significantly influenced by cell type and genotype. Thus, in addition to targeted effects of damage induced directly in cells by irradiation, a variety of untargeted effects may also make important short-term and long-term contributions to determining overall outcome after radiation exposures.
Coates, P. J., Lorimore, S. A., & Wright, E. G. (2004). Damaging and protective cell signalling in the untargeted effects of ionizing radiation. Mutation Research, 568(1), 5-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2004.06.042