The radiosensitivity of cultured HeLa cells was increased upon depletion of the natural cellular polyamines putrescine, spermidine and spermine through treatment of cultures with inhibitors of polyamine biosynthesis. This increased radiosensitivity was manifested as a decrease in the D0 and by the absence of a shoulder in the survival curves. However, our previous studies have shown that the initial yield of X-ray-induced DNA damage did not appear to be elevated in polymine-depleted cells. In addition, polyamine-depleted cells exhibited markedly altered X-ray-induced changes in the distribution of cells in the phases of the cell cycle characterized by increased time of onset and lengthened duration of G2-phase delay. Addition of polyamines to cultures for short periods prior to irradiation restored normal radioresistance and reversed the anomalous features of the G2-phase delay profile. Polyamine supplementation experiments as well as studies in which combinations of inhibitors were employed to modulate specific polyamine levels suggest that spermidine may play a primary role in governing cellular radioresponsiveness. The radioprotective aminothiol WR-1065 protected normal and polyamine-depleted cells to a proportionately similar extent (protection factor of 2.4 and 2.8, respectively) but had no apparent ability to restore the shoulder or alter the G2-phase delay markedly in polyamine-depleted cells. The findings reported here extend our previous observations that polyamine depletion results in a compromised ability to respond to X irradiation and suggest that a defect in repair and/or the G2-phase delay response may be the determining factors.

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