Thirty-six male C57Bl/6 mice were X-irradiated whole body with 3 Gy to generate lymphocytes with dicentric chromosomes to study the persistence of these lymphocytes in the spleen and peripheral blood to estimate the life span of mature B- and T-cells. Peripheral blood and spleen were removed from groups of four mice immediately after radiation exposure and on Days 1, 3, 7, 14, 28, 56, and 112 thereafter. Peripheral blood lymphocytes were cultured with phytohemagglutinin to stimulate T-cell division, and splenic lymphocytes were cultured with either lipopolysaccharide or phytohemagglutinin to stimulate B- or T-cell division, respectively. The initial frequencies of dicentric chromosomes with accompanying fragments observed in splenic T-cells (0.44), splenic B-cells (0.43), and peripheral blood lymphocyte cultures (0.48) initiated on Day 0 were not significantly different. For both splenic and peripheral blood T-lymphocytes, the frequency of cells containing dicentric chromosomes declined in an exponential manner following irradiation, with a 50% reduction in frequency occurring 14 days after exposure. In contrast, the frequency of B-cells containing dicentric chromosomes remained stable through Day 7 but then declined precipitously between Day 7 and Day 14 and remained relatively stable, although slightly above baseline, through Day 112 post-exposure. For both B- and T-cells, less than 5% of the cells contained a dicentric chromosome with accompanying fragments at Day 112. These data indicate that B- and T-lymphocytes with dicentric chromosomes show different decay kinetics and suggest that they may possess different life spans.

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