The effects of ionizing radiation on DNA methylation are of importance due to the role that DNA methylation plays in maintaining genome stability, and the presence of aberrant DNA methylation in many cancers. There is limited evidence that radiation-sensitivity may influence the modulation of DNA methylation by ionizing radiation, resulting in a loss of methylation. The BALB/c, CBA and C57Bl/6 strains are the most commonly utilized mouse strains in radiation research and are classified as radiation sensitive (BALB/c and CBA) or radiation resistant (C57Bl/6). We present here the first direct comparison of changes in repeat element DNA methylation (L1, B1 and Intracisternal A Particle; IAP) over time in these three mouse strains after high-dose radiation exposure. Using a high-resolution melt assay, methylation of the spleen repeat elements was investigated between 1 and 14 days after whole-body irradiation with 1 Gy X rays. Our study demonstrated that rather than a loss of methylation at the elements, all strains exhibited an early increase in L1 methylation one day after irradiation. In the most radiosensitive strain (BALB/c) the increase was also detected at 6 days postirradiation. The radioresistant C57Bl/6 strain exhibited a loss of L1 methylation at 14 days postirradiation. Less extensive changes to the B1 and IAP elements were detected at various time points, and pyrosequencing revealed that the responses of the strains were influenced by sex, with the male BALB/c and CBA mice exhibiting a greater response to the irradiation. The results of our study do not support the hypothesis that the most radiosensitive strains exhibit the greatest loss of repeat element DNA methylation after exposure to high-dose radiation. While the exact mechanism and biological outcome of the changes in DNA methylation observed here are still to be elucidated, this study provides the first evidence that radiation exposure elicits time-dependent changes in the methylation of repeat elements that are influenced by the genetic background, gender and the type of repeat element investigated. Furthermore, it suggest that any induced changes may not be persistent.

You do not currently have access to this content.