In this study, we sought to determine how diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) features are associated with histopathological results, and explored the cellular mechanisms of DWI and 1H-MRS in early radiosensitivity of transplanted liver tumors. VX2 tumors were implanted into the hind leg muscles of 60 New Zealand White Rabbits. All rabbits were randomly divided into ten subgroups according to treatment: irradiated or nonirradiated and according to different times postirradiation. Magnetic resonance scanning was then performed one day before irradiation and on days 1, 3, 5 and 7 postirradiation. Differences in tumor volume, apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) value, choline/creatine ratio and lipid/creatine ratio, and their associations with histopathological findings, were assessed. Tumor volumes in the irradiated groups were smaller than control values, while ADC values increased gradually with time postirradiation; choline/creatine ratios were reduced while lipid/creatine ratios were larger compared to control values. Bax protein levels after irradiation increased with time. Interestingly, the ADC value and Bax-positive grade showed the same increasing trend (r = 0.900, P < 0.001). Additionally, choline/creatine and lipid/creatine ratios were respectively significantly associated with Bax-positive grade. Furthermore, significant associations of tumor volume with ADC value, choline/creatine ratio and lipid/creatine ratio were observed. These findings demonstrated that ADC value, choline/creatine ratio and lipid/creatine ratio, indicators of early radiosensitivity, are related to cell apoptosis.

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