We have examined the radioprotective effect of WR-1065 on cultured Chinese hamster ovary cells. The effects of the drug on the induction and rejoining of γ-ray-induced DNA single-strand breaks (SSBs) and double-strand breaks (DSBs) were measured using alkaline (pH 12.1) and neutral (pH 7.0) elution, respectively. Molecular protection factors (PFs) calculated from these data allowed us to determine whether the degree of modification of strand breakage accurately predicted the PFs measured using the biological end point of cell survival. The drug did protect against the induction of both SSBs and DSBs, although to an extent that did not appear to fully account for the degree of radioprotection in terms of cell killing measured under identical conditions. It is therefore unlikely that radioprotection by WR-1065 occurs simply as a consequence of a general lowering of all types of γ-ray-induced DNA lesions, and it is possible that the drug could differentially protect against the induction of subsets of these DNA lesions. The rate of SSB rejoining was retarded following preirradiation treatment of cells with WR-1065, but there was no effect on DSB rejoining. Postirradiation treatment with WR-1065 also appeared to retard SSB rejoining but without an accompanying effect on either DSB rejoining or cell survival; however, this effect was largely reversed by the addition of catalase and was therefore probably a result of H2 O2 generated by autoxidation of the drug. Based on these observations, it would appear that the molecular actions of aminothiol radioprotective compounds that lead to reduced cell killing are much more complex than previously thought.

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