Human in vivo dose-response to controlled, low-dose low linear energy transfer ionizing radiation exposure

Zelanna Goldberg, David M Rocke, Chad Schwietert, Susanne R. Berglund, Alison Santana, Angela Jones, Jörg Lehmann, Robin L Stern, Ruixiao Lu, Christine Hartmann Siantar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Purpose: The effect of low doses of low-linear energy transfer (photon) ionizing radiation (LDIR, <10 cGy) on human tissue when exposure is under normal physiologic conditions is of significant interest to the medical and scientific community in therapeutic and other contexts. Although, to date, there has been no direct assessment of the response of human tissue to LDIR when exposure is under normal physiologic conditions of intact three-dimensional architecture, vasculature, and cell-cell contacts (between epithelial cells and between epithelial and stromal cells). Experimental Design: In this article, we present the first data on the response of human tissue exposed in vivo to LDIR with precisely controlled and calibrated doses. We evaluated transcriptomic responses to a single exposure of LDIR in the normal skin of men undergoing therapeutic radiation for prostate cancer (research protocol, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant, Institutional Review Board-approved). Using newly developed biostatistical tools that account for individual splice variants and the expected variability of temporal response between humans even when the outcome is measured at a single time, we show a dose-response pattern in gene expression in a number of pathways and gene groups that are biologically plausible responses to LDIR. Results: Examining genes and pathways identified as radiation-responsive in cell culture models, we found seven gene groups and five pathways that were altered in men in this experiment. These included the Akt/phosphoinositide-3-kinase pathway, the growth factor pathway, the stress/apoptosis pathway, and the pathway initiated by transforming growth factor-β signaling, whereas gene groups with altered expression included the keratins, the zinc finger proteins and signaling molecules in the mitogen-activated protein kinase gene group. We show that there is considerable individual variability in radiation response that makes the detection of effects difficult, but still feasible when analyzed according to gene group and pathway. Conclusions: These results show for the first time that low doses of radiation have an identifiable biosignature in human tissue, irradiated in vivo with normal intact three-dimensional architecture, vascular supply, and innervation. The genes and pathways show that the tissue (a) does detect the injury, (b) initiates a stress/inflammatory response, (c) undergoes DNA remodeling, as suggested by the significant increase in zinc finger protein gene expression, and (d) initiates a "pro-survival" response. The ability to detect a distinct radiation response pattern following LDIR exposure has important implications for risk assessment in both therapeutic and national defense contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3723-3729
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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