Fluorometric analysis of DNA unwinding and alkaline elution were used to investigate the production and persistence of DNA single-strand breaks (SSBs) in Chinese hamster V79 and xrs-5 cells treated with the chemotherapeutic agent carboplatin in combination with radiation. Carboplatin was administered to cells before irradiation in hypoxic conditions, or the drug was added immediately after irradiation during the postirradiation recovery period in air. The results of DNA unwinding studies suggest that carboplatin enhances the production of radiation-induced SSBs in hypoxic V79 cells and xrs-5 cells by a factor of 1.86 and 1.83, respectively, when combined with radiation compared to the SSBs produced by irradiation alone. Carboplatin alone did not produce a measurable number of SSBs. Alkaline elution profiles also indicated that the rate of elution of SSBs was higher in cells treated with the carboplatin-radiation combination in hypoxia when compared to irradiation alone, resulting in an increased yield of radiation-induced SSBs by a factor of 1.46 in V79 cells with 20 Gy irradiation and by a factor of 2.02 in xrs-5 cells with 20 Gy irradiation. When carboplatin is present after irradiation and during the postirradiation recovery period, the rejoining of radiation-induced SSBs is inhibited during this postirradiation incubation period (radiopotentiation) with a relative inhibition factor at 1 h postirradiation of 1.25 in V79 cells and 1.15 in xrs-5 cells. An increased production and persistence of SSBs resulting from the interaction of carboplatin with radiation may be an important step in the mechanism responsible for the potentiated cell killing reported previously from studies in animal tumors and in cultured cells.

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