Rola, R., Otsuka, S., Obenaus, A., Nelson, G. A., Limoli, C. L., VandenBerg, S. R. and Fike, J. R. Indicators of Hippocampal Neurogenesis are Altered by 56Fe-Particle Irradiation in a Dose-Dependent Manner. Radiat. Res. 162, 442–446 (2004).

The health risks to astronauts exposed to high-LET radiation include possible cognitive deficits. The pathogenesis of radiation-induced cognitive injury is unknown but may involve loss of neural precursor cells from the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the hippocampal dentate gyrus. To address this hypothesis, adult female C57BL/6 mice received whole-body irradiation with a 1 GeV/nucleon iron-particle beam in a single fraction of 0, 1, 2 and 3 Gy. Two months later mice were given BrdU injections to label proliferating cells. Subsequently, hippocampal tissue was assessed using immunohistochemistry for detection of proliferating cells and immature neurons. Routine histopathological methods were used to qualitatively assess tissue/cell morphology in the hippocampal formation and adjacent areas. When compared to controls, irradiated mice showed progressively fewer BrdU-positive cells as a function of dose. This observation was confirmed by Ki-67 immunostaining in the SGZ showing reductions in a dose-dependent fashion. The progeny of the proliferating SGZ cells, i.e. immature neurons, were visualized by doublecortin staining and were significantly reduced by irradiation, with the decreases ranging from 34% after 1 Gy to 71% after 3 Gy. Histopathology showed that in addition to cell changes in the SGZ, 56Fe particles induced a chronic and diffuse astrocytosis and changes in pyramidal neurons in and around the hippocampal formation. The present data provide the first evidence that high-LET radiation has deleterious effects on cells associated with hippocampal neurogenesis.

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