Irradiation of whole blood with137 Cs γ rays intensifies the oxidative burst. Oxidant production was used as an indicator of inflammatory cell reactions and was measured by luminol-amplified chemiluminescence after treatment with inflammatory activators including bacteria, the neutrophil taxin formyl-Met-Leu-Phe, the Ca2+ ionophore A23187, the detergent saponin, and the tumor promoter phorbol ester. The irradiation response is dose-dependent up to about 100 μGy, is detectable within minutes, persists at least 1 h, and is transmitted intercellularly by a soluble mediator. The response is completely inhibited by Ca2+ sequestration in the presence of A23187 or by adenosine, indicating its Ca2+ dependency, and by the phospholipase A2 blocker p-bromphenacyl bromide. However, inhibition by the cyclooxygenase blocker aspirin is sporadic or absent. Blood taken after diagnostic examination of lungs with X rays also exhibited intensified chemiluminescence. These reactions implicate a role for specific amplifying mediator pathways, especially metabolites of the arachidonic acid cascade, in the response: "damage and repair" to cells or DNA plays little or no role. Our results provide evidence for a new mechanism of radiation action with possible consequences for the homeostasis of reactions involving inflammation and second messengers in human health and early development.

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