There is little known about the regulation of gene expression in rat parotid glands after exposure to ionizing radiation. The present studies investigate the effects of in vivo ionizing radiation, with subsequent stimulation of β-adrenergic receptors by isoproterenol, on parotid gland function and on the expression of the early response genes, c-fos, c-jun, and jun B. Ionizing radiation diminished parotid gland weight and saliva output. Treatment of irradiated rats with isoproterenol increased the gland weight to levels similar to those in nonirradiated rats. However, such treatment had no effect on saliva output as indicated by measurements of parotid salivary flow rate. Irradiation alone increased the expression of c-fos, c-jun, and jun B. The combination of irradiation and isoproterenol had an additional effect on the levels of c-fos and jun B mRNAs and proteins particularly at earlier experimental times (1 to 8 h). Isoproterenol alone induced high levels of c-fos and jun B mRNA but not of c-jun mRNA. However, c-jun mRNA was induced markedly by radiation and 8 h of isoproterenol treatment, indicating a combined effect on c-jun gene expression. These observations suggest that the expression of the proto-oncogenes c-fos, c-jun, and jun B is probably regulated through differential signal transduction pathways which may be activated by these external stimuli and may be associated with functional changes induced in the rat parotid gland by ionizing radiation and by ionizing radiation and isoproterenol.

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