The time of appearance and the dose response of radiation effects in the mouse kidney were assessed from the determination of increases in labeling index, the appearance of proximal tubule cells with abnormally large nuclei, and kidney weight loss. Increased labeling indices and abnormally large nuclei were observed in the irradiated proximal tubule cells before any other histological changes were seen. The labeling index increased with dose (from 3 to 15 Gy) but not with time (from 1 to 12 months after irradiation). Increased labeling was evident as soon as 1 month after irradiation. Cell depletion as measured by a decrease in kidney weights compared to those of age-matched controls was not significant until 6 or more months after 11-, 13-, or 15-Gy irradiation. The frequency of cells with large nuclei increased steadily during the first 9 months after 15 Gy and tended to decline between 9 and 12 months, coincident with accelerating renal weight loss. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the production of these cells is a result of an abortive mitotic division and their loss is an eventual result of such an aberration. The increased proliferation induced by irradiation increases the chance for an abortive mitosis and death, presumably at a subsequent mitosis, of radiation-damaged proximal tubule cells, which is a major factor in the appearance of late radiation damage in the kidney.

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