Gene therapy-mediated overexpression of superoxide dismutases (SOD) appears to be a promising strategy for modulating radiosensitivity based on detoxification of superoxide radicals and suppression of apoptosis. Using recombinant lentiviral-based vectors, the effects of SOD overexpression on both were tested in human lymphoblastoid cells (TK6) that are sensitive to radiation-induced apoptosis. TK6 cells were transduced with vectors containing CuZnSOD, MnSOD or inverted MnSOD (MSODi) cDNA. Gene transfer efficiency, SOD activity, superoxide-radical resistance, apoptosis and clonogenic survival were determined. A six- to eightfold increase in SOD activity was observed after transduction, rendering MnSOD-overexpressing TK6 cells significantly more resistant to paraquat-induced superoxide radical production than controls. Although significant differences in sensitivity to apoptosis were observed for MnSOD, no differences in clonogenic survival after irradiation were detected between any groups. Our data show that efficient cellular SOD overexpression, an increased superoxide radical detoxifying ability and, for MnSOD, decreased apoptosis did not result in increased clonogenic survival after irradiation. This strengthens the hypothesis of differences in the radiation-modulating effects of SOD on normal and malignant cells (protective and nonprotective, respectively), thereby showing its potential to increase the therapeutic index in future clinical SOD-based radioprotection approaches.

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