DNA double-strand break distributions in X-ray and α-particle irradiated V79 cells: Evidence for non-random breakage

H.C. Newman, K. M. Prise*, M. Folkard, B.D. Michael

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Citations (Scopus)


Many studies have sholvn that with increasing LET of ionizing radiation the RBE (relative biological effectiveness) for dsb (double strand breaks) induction remains around 1.0 despite the increase in the RBE for cell killing. This has been attributed to an increase in the complexity of lesions, classified as dsb with current techniques, at multiply damaged sites. This study determines the molecular weight distributions of DNA from Chinese hamster V79 cells irradiated with X-rays or 110 keV/μm α-particles. Two running conditions for pulsed-field gel-electrophoresis were chosen to give optimal separation of fragments either in the 225 kbp-5.7 Mbp range or the 0.3 kbp to 225 kbp range. Taking the total fraction of DNA migrating into the gel as a measure of fragmentation, the RBE for dsb induction was less than 1.0 for both molecular weight regions studied. The total yields of dsb were 8.2 x 10-9 dsb/Gy/bp for X-rays and 7.8 x 10-9 dsb/Gy/bp for α-particles, measured using a random breakage model. Analysis of the RBE of α-particles versus molecular weight gave a different response. In the 0.4 Mbp-5.7 Mbp region the RBE was less than 1.0; however, below 0.4 Mbp the RBE increased above 1.0. The frequency distributions of fragment sizes were found to differ from those predicted by a model assuming random breakage along the length of the DNA and the differences were greater for α-particles than for X-rays. An excess of fragments induced by a single-hit mechanism was found in the 8-300 kbp region and for X-rays and α-particles these corresponded to an extra 0.8 x 10-9 and 3.4 x 10-9 dsb/bp/Gy, respectively. Thus for every α-particle track that induces a dsb there is a 44% probability of inducing a second break within 300 kbp and for electron tracks the probability is 10%. This study shows that the distribution of damage from a high LET α-particle track is significantly different from that observed with low LET X-rays. In particular, it suggests that the fragmentation patterns of irradiated DNA may be related to the higher-order chromatin repeating structures found in intact cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-363
Number of pages17
JournalInternational journal of radiation biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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