We examined OH radical-mediated indirect actions from X irradiation on cell killing in wild-type Chinese hamster ovary cell lines (CHO and AA8) under oxic and hypoxic conditions, and compared the contribution of direct and indirect actions under both conditions. The contribution of indirect action on cell killing can be estimated from the maximum degree of protection by dimethylsulfoxide, which suppresses indirect action by quenching OH radicals without affecting the direct action of X rays on cell killing. The contributions of indirect action on cell killing of CHO cells were 76% and 50% under oxic and hypoxic conditions, respectively, and those for AA8 cells were 85% and 47%, respectively. Therefore, the indirect action on cell killing was enhanced by oxygen during X irradiation in both cell lines tested. Oxygen enhancement ratios (OERs) at the 10% survival level (D10 or LD90) for CHO and AA8 cells were 2.68 ± 0.15 and 2.76 ± 0.08, respectively. OERs were evaluated separately for indirect and direct actions, which gave the values of 3.75 and 2.01 for CHO, and 4.11 and 1.32 for AA8 cells, respectively. Thus the generally accepted OER value of ∼3 is best understood as the average of the OER values for both indirect and direct actions. These results imply that both indirect and direct actions on cell killing require oxygen for the majority of lethal DNA damage, however, oxygen plays a larger role in indirect than for direct effects. Conversely, the lethal damage induced by the direct action of X rays are less affected by oxygen concentration.

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