Kato, T. A., Nagasawa, H., Weil, M. M., Genik, P. C., Little, J. B. and Bedford, J. S. γ-H2AX Foci after Low-Dose-Rate Irradiation Reveal Atm Haploinsufficiency in Mice. Radiat. Res. 166, 47–54 (2006).

We have investigated the use of the γ-H2AX assay, reflecting the presence of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), as a possible means for identifying individuals who may be intermediate with respect to the extremes of hyper-radiosensitivity phenotypes. In this case, cells were studied from mice that were normal (Atm+/+), heterozygous (Atm+/−), or homozygous recessive (Atm−/−) for a truncating mutation in the Atm gene. After single acute (high-dose-rate) exposures, differences in mean numbers of γ-H2AX foci per cell between samples from Atm+/+ and Atm−/− mice were clear at nearly all sampling times, but at no sampling time was there a clear distinction for cells from Atm+/+ and Atm+/− mice. In contrast, under conditions of low-dose-rate irradiation at 10 cGy/h, appreciable differences in the levels of γ-H2AX foci per cell were observed in synchronized G1 cells derived from Atm+/− mice relative to cells from Atm+/+ mice. The levels were intermediate between those for cells from Atm+/+ and Atm−/− mice. After 24 h exposure at this dose rate, measurements in cells from four different mice for each genotype yielded mean frequencies of foci per cell of 1.77 ± 0.13 (SEM) for Atm+/+ cells, 4.75 ± 0.20 for the Atm+/− cells, and 11.10 ± 0.33 for the Atm−/−cells. The distributions of foci per G1 cell were not significantly different from Poisson. To the extent that variations in sensitivity with respect to γ-H2AX focus formation reflect variations in radiosensitivity for biological effects of concern, such as carcinogenesis, and that similar differences are seen for other genetic DNA DSB processing defects in general, this assay may provide a relatively straightforward means for distinguishing individuals who may be mildly hypersensitive to radiation such as we observed for Atm heterozygous mice.

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