Murley, J. S., Nantajit, D., Baker, K. L., Kataoka, Y., Li, J. J. and Grdina, D. J. Maintenance of Manganese Superoxide Dismutase (SOD2)-Mediated Delayed Radioprotection Induced by Repeated Administration of the Free Thiol Form of Amifostine. Radiat. Res. 169, 495–505 (2008).

Thiol-containing drugs such as WR1065, the free thiol form of amifostine, have been shown to induce a delayed radioprotective effect in both malignant and non-malignant cells. In mammalian cells exposed to a dose as low as 40 μM WR1065, the redox-sensitive nuclear transcription factor κB (NFκB) is activated, leading to an elevation in the expression of the antioxidant gene manganese superoxide dismutase (SOD2) and a concomitant increase in active SOD2 enzyme levels that peaks 24 to 32 h later. Exposure of cells to ionizing radiation during the period of elevated SOD2 enzymatic activity results in an enhanced radiation resistance. This is seen as an increase in surviving fraction as determined by standard colony formation assays. To determine whether this delayed radioprotection can be maintained over a prolonged period in cells of either malignant or non-malignant origin, both human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC) and SA-NH mouse sarcoma cells were grown to confluence and exposed to 40 μM WR1065 using three administration protocols: (1) daily drug exposure for 10 days followed each day by irradiation with 2 Gy; (2) drug exposure once every 48 h followed by irradiation with 2 Gy 48 h later for 14 days; and (3) drug exposure every 72 h followed by irradiation with 2 Gy 72 h later for 12 days. As a function of each experimental condition, cell numbers and associated SOD2 enzymatic activities were measured at the time of each irradiation. None of the treatment conditions were toxic to either HMEC or SA-NH cells. SOD2 activity was elevated 5.3- and 1.8-fold over background on average for HMEC exposed to 40 μM WR1065 every 24 or 48 h, respectively. Likewise, SOD2 activity was elevated in SA-NH mouse sarcoma cells 7.8- and 4.9-fold after daily exposure to WR1065 or exposure to WR1065 once every 48 h, respectively. Both HMEC and SA-NH cells exhibited enhanced radiation resistance that correlated with the increase in SOD2 activity. The average respective increases in cell survival were 1.33 ± 0.01 (SEM), 1.23 ± 0.01 and 1.04 ± 0.01 for HMEC exposed to WR1065 every 24, 48 and 72 h, respectively, and 1.27 ± 0.01, 1.18 ± 0.02 and 1.02 ± 0.02 for SA-NH cells exposed to WR1065 every 24, 48 and 72 h, respectively. Both the elevation in WR1065-induced SOD2 enzymatic activity and the corresponding increase in radiation resistance were completely inhibited in HMEC and SA-NH cells transfected with human or mouse SOD2 siRNA oligomers and irradiated 24 h later. These data demonstrate that a delayed radioprotective effect can be induced and maintained over a prolonged period in both non-malignant and malignant cells exposed to thiol-containing drugs such as WR1065. For non-malignant cells this represents a novel paradigm for radiation protection. The ability of WR1065 to induce a persistent elevated radiation resistance in malignant cells, however, suggests a new potential concern regarding the issue of tumor protection in patients exposed to thiol-containing drugs.

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