Gaillard, S., Pusset, D., de Toledo, S. M., Fromm, M. and Azzam, E. I. Propagation Distance of the α-Particle-Induced Bystander Effect: The Role of Nuclear Traversal and Gap Junction Communication. Radiat. Res. 171, 513–520 (2009).
When cell populations are exposed to low-dose α-particle radiation, a significant fraction of the cells will not be traversed by a radiation track. However, stressful effects occur in both irradiated and bystander cells in the population. Characterizing these effects, and investigating their underlying mechanism(s), is critical to understanding human health risks associated with exposure to α particles. To this end, confluent normal human fibroblast cultures were grown on polyethylene terephthalate foil grafted to an ultrathin solid-state nuclear track detector and exposed under non-perturbing conditions to low-fluence α particles from a broadbeam irradiator. Irradiated and affected bystander cells were localized with micrometer precision. The stress-responsive protein p21Waf1 (also known as CDKN1A) was induced in bystander cells within a 100-μm radius from an irradiated cell. The mean propagation distance ranged from 20 to 40 μm around the intranuclear α-particle impact point, which corresponds to a set of ∼30 cells. Nuclear traversal, induced DNA damage, and gap junction communication were critical contributors to propagation of this stressful effect. The strategy described here may be ideal to investigate the size of radiation-affected target and the relative contribution of different cellular organelles to bystander effects induced by energetic particles, which is relevant to radioprotection and cancer radiotherapy.