Subpopulations of mouse lens epithelial cells, differing in proliferative status, were irradiated with either X rays or fission spectrum neutrons given singly or in four weekly fractions. After various times, epithelia were mitogenically stimulated by wounding and DNA synthesis responses were determined by incorporation of [3 H]thymidine. At 1 h following both X and neutron irradiations, significant suppression of the wound response after single doses and a sparing effect of fractionation were evident in both the mitotically quiescent and the slowly proliferating subpopulations. At 1 week following single or fractionated doses of both radiations, recovery was evident in both subpopulations. By 4 weeks, the quiescent subpopulation showed significant recovery after both single and fractionated doses of X rays or neutrons. In contrast, a marked decreased ability to respond after neutron irradiation and, in addition, a significant enhancement effect of neutron fractionation were observed for the slowly proliferating subpopulation. Per gray, neutrons were about 7.5 times more effective than X rays as a single dose and 25 times more effective in four equal fractions. The shift from an initial sparing to a final enhancing effect of neutron fractionation for the slowly proliferating subpopulation has importance for understanding divergent early and late radiation responses following dose fractionation.

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