Changes in the expression of genes implicated in oxidative stress and in extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling and selected protein expression profiles in mouse skin were examined after exposure to low-dose-rate or high-dose-rate photon irradiation. ICR mice received whole-body γ rays to total doses of 0, 0.25, 0.5 and 1 Gy at dose rates of 50 cGy/h or 50 cGy/min. Skin tissues were harvested for characterization at 4 h after irradiation. For oxidative stress after low-dose-rate exposure, 0.25, 0.5 and 1 Gy significantly altered 27, 23 and 25 genes, respectively, among 84 genes assessed (P < 0.05). At doses as low as 0.25 Gy, many genes responsible for regulating the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) were significantly altered, with changes >2-fold compared to 0 Gy. For an ECM profile, 18–20 out of 84 genes were significantly up- or downregulated after low-dose-rate exposure. After high-dose-rate irradiation, of 84 genes associated with oxidative stress, 16, 22 and 22 genes were significantly affected after 0.25, 0.5 and 1 Gy, respectively. Compared to low-dose-rate radiation, high-dose-rate exposure resulted in different ECM gene expression profiles. The most striking changes after low-dose-rate or high-dose-rate exposure on ECM profiles were on genes encoding matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), e.g., Mmp2 and Mmp15 for low dose rate and Mmp9 and Mmp11 for high dose rate. Immunostaining for MMP-2 and MMP-9 proteins showed radiation dose rate-dependent differences. These data revealed that exposure to low total doses with low-dose-rate or high-dose-rate photon radiation induced oxidative stress and ECM-associated alterations in gene expression profiles. The expression of many genes was differentially regulated by different total dose and/or dose-rate regimens.

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