Activation of certain oncogenes may alter the sensitivity of cells to ionizing radiation. We studied the effect of oncogene activation on the radiation sensitivity of cells of a human melanoma cell line. The cell line IGR39D was transfected with the MYC oncogene, the proto-oncogene NRAS, NRAS activated by a point mutation (61-arginine) or a combination of mutated NRAS and MYC. Single-dose experiments showed a decreased survival after transfection with MYC, wild-type NRAS or mutated NRAS. Co-transfection with MYC and mutated NRAS decreased survival up to 4 Gy, whereas at higher doses no shift in radiosensitivity was seen. Flow cytometry data indicated that differences in radiosensitivity could be explained at least in part by a difference in the distribution of cells in the phases of the cell cycle. After transfection of cells with either NRAS or MYC, the number of cells in G1 phase decreased with a concomitant increase of cells in the G2/ M phase. When the cell line transfected with activated NRAS was manipulated so that the distribution of the cells in the phases of the cell cycle resembled that of the parental line at the time of irradiation, the survival of the cells was improved. Similar experiments with the cell line containing MYC did not result in an alteration of the distribution of the cells in the cycle, or the survival after single-dose fractions, suggesting the presence of a distinct mechanism for influencing radiation sensitivity. Both NRAS and MYC transfection decrease the radiation sensitivity of human melanoma cells, but the underlying mechanisms seem different. In conclusion, transfection with NRAS or MYC alone increases radiation sensitivity while transfection of cells containing NRAS with MYC restores resistance at higher doses.

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