Kataoka, Y., Murley, J. S., Baker, K. L. and Grdina, D. J. Relationship between Phosphorylated Histone H2AX Formation and Cell Survival in Human Microvascular Endothelial Cells (HMEC) as a Function of Ionizing Radiation Exposure in the Presence or Absence of Thiol-Containing Drugs. Radiat. Res. 168, 106–114 (2007).

Human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC) were exposed to ionizing radiation at doses ranging from 0 to 16 Gy in either the presence or absence of the active thiol forms of amifostine (WR1065), phosphonol (WR255591), N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), captopril or mesna. Each of these clinically relevant thiols, administered to HMEC at a dose of 4 mM for 30 min prior to irradiation, is known to exhibit antioxidant properties. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the relationship(s), if any, between the frequency of radiation-induced histone H2AX phosphorylation at serine 139 (γ-H2AX) in cells and subsequent survival, as assessed by colony-forming ability, in exposed cell populations as a function of the presence or absence of each of the five thiol compounds during irradiation. γ-H2AX formation in irradiated cells, as a function of relative DNA content, was quantified by bivariant flow cytometry analysis with FITC-conjugated γ-H2AX antibody and nuclear DAPI staining. γ-H2AX formation in cells was measured as the relative fold increase as a function of the treatment conditions. The frequency of γ-H2AX-positive cells increased with increasing dose of radiation followed by a dose- and time-dependent decay. The most robust response for γ-H2AX formation occurred 1 h after irradiation with their relative frequencies decreasing as a function of time 4 and 24 h later. To assess the effects of the various thiols on γ-H2AX formation, all measurements were made 1 h after irradiation. WR1065 was not only effective in protecting HMEC against γ-H2AX formation across the entire dose range of radiation exposures used, but it was also significantly more cytoprotective than either its prodrug (WR2721) or disulfide (WR33278) analogue. WR1065 had no significant effect on γ-H2AX formation when administered immediately or up to 30 min after radiation exposure. An inhibitory effect against γ-H2AX formation induced by 8 Gy of radiation was expressed by each of the thiols tested. NAC, captopril and mesna were equally effective in reducing the frequency of γ-H2AX formation, with both WR1065 and WR255591 exhibiting a slightly more robust protective effect. Each of the five thiols was effective in reducing the frequency of γ-H2AX-positive cells across all phases of the cell cycle. In contrast to the relative ability of each of these thiols to inhibit γ-H2AX formation after irradiation, NAC, captopril and mesna afforded no protection to HMEC as determined using a colony-forming survival assay. Only WR1065 and WR255591 were effective in reducing the frequencies of radiation-induced γ-H2AX-positive cells as well as protecting against cell death. These results suggest that the use of γ-H2AX as a biomarker for screening the efficacy of novel antioxidant radioprotective compounds is highly problematic since their formation and disappearance may be linked to processes beyond simply the formation and repair of radiation-induced DSBs.

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