Ulsh, B. A., Mühlmann-Díaz, M. C., Whicker, F. W., Hinton, T. G., Congdon, J. D. and Bedford, J. S. Chromosome Translocations in Turtles: A Biomarker in a Sentinel Animal for Ecological Dosimetry.

Nonhuman organisms are being exposed to ionizing radiations at radionuclide-contaminated sites around the world. Direct methods are seldom available for measuring biologically relevant doses received by these organisms. Here we extend biological dosimetry techniques, which are much better developed for humans and a few other mammalian species, to a nonmammalian species. Turtles were chosen because a long-lived animal would best serve the need for low-level, chronic exposure conditions. We chose the yellow-bellied slider turtle (Trachemys scripta), which is known to have a maximum life span of at least 22 years. As reported elsewhere, we first isolated an embryonic fibroblast cell line and constructed whole-chromosome-specific DNA libraries for chromosome 1 by microdissection and PCR. A FISH painting probe was prepared and used to establish a dose–response curve for ionizing radiation-induced chromosome interchange aberrations in turtle fibroblasts. This was compared to the dose response for human fibroblasts treated under similar conditions in our laboratory. With respect to induction of chromosome interchange aberrations, human fibroblasts were approximately 1.7 times more sensitive than the T. scripta fibroblasts. To the extent that symmetrical interchanges are persistent over long periods, this approach could eventually provide a measure of the integrated lifetime dose these organisms receive from radionuclides in their environment and give a measure of the extent of relevant genetic damage over that time.

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