Radiation-induced bystander and abscopal effects, in which DNA damage is produced in nonirradiated cells as a consequence of communication with irradiated cells, indicate mechanisms of inducing damage and cell death additional to the conventional model of deposition of energy in the cell nucleus at the time of irradiation. In this study we show that signals generated in vivo in the bone marrow of mice irradiated with 4 Gy γ rays 18 h to 15 months previously are able to induce DNA damage and apoptosis in nonirradiated bone marrow cells but that comparable signals are not detected at earlier times postirradiation or at doses below 100 mGy. Bone marrow cells of both CBA/Ca and C57BL/6 genotypes exhibit responses to signals produced by either irradiated CBA/Ca or C57BL/6 mice, and the responses are mediated by the cytokines FasL and TNF-α converging on a COX-2-dependent pathway. The findings are consistent with indirect inflammatory signaling induced as a response to the initial radiation damage rather than to direct signaling between irradiated and nonirradiated cells. The findings also demonstrate the importance of studying tissue responses when considering the mechanisms underlying the consequences of radiation exposures.

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