Purpose:Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) enables the delivery of high doses to target volume while sparing surrounding non-targeted tissues. IMRT treatment, however, substantially increases the normal-tissue volume receiving low-dose irradiation, but the biological consequences are unclear. Experimental Design:Using mouse strains that varied in genetic DNA repair capacity, we investigated the DNA damage response of cortical neurons during daily low-dose irradiation (0.1 Gy). Using light and electron microscopic approaches, we enumerated and characterized DNA damage foci as marker for double-strand breaks (DSBs). Results:During repeated low-dose irradiation, cortical neurons in brain tissues of all mouse strains had a significant increase of persisting foci with cumulative doses, with the most pronounced accumulation of large-sized foci in repair-deficient mice. Electron microscopic analysis revealed that persisting foci in repair-proficient neurons reflect chromatin alterations in heterochromatin, but not persistently unrepaired DSBs. Repair-deficient SCID neurons, by contrast, showed high numbers of unrepaired DSBs in eu- and heterochromatin, emphasizing the fundamental role of DNA-PKcs in DSB rejoining, independent of chromatin status. In repair-deficient ATM-/- neurons, large persisting damage foci reflect multiple unrepaired DSBs concentrated at the boundary of heterochromatin due to disturbed KAP1-phosphorylation. Conclusions:Repeated low-dose irradiation leads to the accumulation of persisting DNA damage foci in cortical neurons, and thus may adversely affect brain tissue and increase the risk of carcinogenesis. Multiple unrepaired DSBs account for large-sized foci in repair-deficient neurons, thus quantifying foci alone may underestimate extent and complexity of persistent DNA damage.
- Received December 23, 2015.
- Revision received April 13, 2016.
- Accepted May 7, 2016.
- Copyright ©2016, American Association for Cancer Research.