Bowman, M. K., Becker, D., Sevilla, M. D. and Zimbrick, J. D. Track Structure in DNA Irradiated with Heavy Ions. Radiat. Res. 163, 447–454 (2005).

The spatial properties of trapped radicals produced in heavy-ion-irradiated solid DNA at 77 K have been probed using pulsed electron paramagnetic double resonance (PELDOR or DEER) techniques. Salmon testes DNA hydrated to 12 water molecules per nucleotide was irradiated with 40Ar ions of energy 100 MeV/nucleon and LET ranging from 300 to 400 keV/μm. Irradiated samples were maintained at cryogenic temperature at all times. PELDOR measurements were made using a refocused echo detection sequence that allows dipolar interaction between trapped radicals to be observed. The EPR spectrum is attributed to electron loss/gain DNA base radicals and neutral carbon-centered radicals that likely arise from sugar damage. We find a radical concentration of 13.5 × 1018 cm−3 in the tracks and a track radius of 6.79 nm. The cross section of these tracks is 144 nm2, yielding a lineal radical density of 2.6 radicals/nm. Based on the yields determined previously for particles having calculated LET values of 300–400 keV/μm and our measured lineal density, we obtain an LET of 270 keV/μm, which is in good agreement with the calculated range of values. These measurements of radical density and spatial extent provide the first direct experimental determination of track characteristics in irradiated DNA.

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