The major adverse consequences of radiation exposure, including the initiation of leukaemia and other malignancies, are generally attributed to effects in the cell nucleus at the time of irradiation. However, genomic damage as a longer term consequence of radiation exposure has more recently been demonstrated due to untargeted radiation effects including delayed chromosomal instability and bystander effects. These processes, mainly studied in vitro, are characterized by un-irradiated cells demonstrating effects as though they themselves had been irradiated and have been associated with altered oxidative processes. To investigate the potential for these untargeted effects of radiation to produce delayed damaging events in vivo, we studied a well-characterized model of radiation-induced acute myeloid leukaemia in CBA/Ca mice. Haemopoietic tissues of irradiated CBA/Ca mice exhibit enhanced levels of p53 stabilization, increased levels of p21(waf1), and increased amounts of apoptosis, as expected, in the first few hours post-irradiation, but also at much later times: weeks and months after the initial exposure. Because these responses are seen in cells that were not themselves directly irradiated but are the descendants of irradiated cells, the data are consistent with an initial radiation exposure leading to persistently increased levels of ongoing DNA damage, analogous to radiation-induced chromosomal instability. To investigate the potential source of ongoing oxidative processes, we show increased levels of 3-nitrotyrosine, a marker of damaging nitrogen/oxygen species in macrophages. Not all animals show increased oxidative activity or p53 responses as long-term consequences of irradiation, but increased levels of p53, p21, and apoptosis are directly correlated with increased 3-nitrotyrosine in individual mice post-irradiation. The data implicate persistent activation of inflammatory-type responses in irradiated tissues as a contributory bystander mechanism for causing delayed DNA damage.
Coates, P. J., Robinson, J. I., Lorimore, S. A., & Wright, E. G. (2008). Ongoing activation of p53 pathway responses is a long-term consequence of radiation exposure in vivo and associates with altered macrophage activities. Journal of Pathology, 214(5), 610-6. https://doi.org/10.1002/path.2321