Kleiman, N. J., David, J., Elliston, C. D., Hopkins, K. M., Smilenov, L. B., Brenner, D. J., Worgul, B. V., Hall, E. J. and Lieberman, H. B. Mrad9 and Atm Haploinsufficiency Enhance Spontaneous and X-Ray-Induced Cataractogenesis in Mice. Radiat. Res. 168, 567–573 (2007).

Rad9 and Atm regulate multiple cellular responses to DNA damage, including cell cycle checkpoints, DNA repair and apoptosis. However, the impact of dual heterozygosity for Atm and Rad9 is unknown. Using 50 cGy of X rays as an environmental insult and cataractogenesis as an end point, this study examined the effect of heterozygosity for one or both genes in mice. Posterior subcapsular cataracts, characteristic of radiation exposure, developed earlier in X-irradiated double heterozygotes than in single heterozygotes, which were more prone to cataractogenesis than wild-type controls. Cataract onset time and progression in single or double heterozygotes were accelerated even in unirradiated eyes. These findings indicate that the cataractogenic effect of combined heterozygosity is greater than for each gene alone and are the first to demonstrate the impact of multiple haploinsufficiency on radiation effects in an intact mammal. These observations may help explain observed interindividual differential radiosensitivity in human populations and have important implications for those undergoing radiotherapy or exposed to elevated levels of cosmic radiation, such as the astronaut corps. These findings demonstrate that Mrad9 and Atm are important determinants of lens opacification and, given the roles of Atm and Rad9 in maintaining genomic stability, are consistent with a genotoxic basis for radiation cataractogenesis.

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