The induction of intracellular DNA strand breaks by X rays and various heavy charged particles was measured by the alkaline unwinding and alkaline and neutral filter elution techniques. No variations in strand break induction were found between the different cell lines under investigation. For a given particle, both the LET and the particle energy determined the efficiency to induce DNA lesions. RBE values for the total amount of induced strand breaks were always less than 1. For DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), RBE values only slightly greater than 1 were determined for particle radiation with an LET around 300 keV/μm. Intracellular DSB/SSB ratios were found to be equivalent to data reported for in vitro systems using radioprotective conditions [Christensen et al., Int. J. Radiat. Biol. 22, 457-477, 1972; Taucher-Scholz et al., Adv. Space Res. 12(2-3), (2)73-(2)80, 1992]. Strand break rejoining as an indicator of cellular repair processes was detected even after high-LET irradiation (LET ≤ 10,000 keV/μm). However, both the half-times of rejoining and the fraction of residual DNA breaks increased with the atomic number of the particle. After particle irradiation with LET values beyond 10,000 keV/μm, no rejoining of DNA strand breaks was found.

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