Radioprotectors with few side effects are useful for carbon-ion therapy, which directly induces clustering damage in DNA. With the aim of finding the most effective radioprotector, we investigated the effects of selected amino acids which might have chemical DNA-repair functions against therapeutic carbon ions. In the current study, we employed five amino acids: tryptophan (Trp), cysteine (Cys), methionine (Met), valine (Val) and alanine (Ala). Samples of supercoiled pBR322 plasmid DNA with a 17 mM amino acid were prepared in TE buffer (10 mM Tris, 1 mM ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, pH 7.5). Phosphate buffered saline (PBS) was also used in assays of the 0.17 mM amino acid. The samples were irradiated with carbon-ion beams (290 MeV/u) on 6 cm spread-out Bragg peak at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and Heavy Ion Medical Accelerator in Chiba, Japan. Breaks in the DNA were detected as changes in the plasmids and quantified by subsequent electrophoresis on agarose gels. DNA damage yields and protection factors for each amino acid were calculated as ratios relative to reagent-free controls. Trp and Cys showed radioprotective effects against plasmid DNA damage induced by carbon-ion beam, both in PBS and TE buffer, comparable to those of Met. The double-strand break (DSB) yields and protective effects of Trp were comparable to those of Cys. The yields of both single-strand breaks and DSBs correlated with the scavenging capacity of hydroxyl radicals (rate constant for scavenging hydroxyl radicals multiplied by the amino acid concentration) in bulk solution. These data indicate that the radioprotective effects of amino acids against plasmid DNA damage induced by carbon ions could be explained primarily by the scavenging capacity of hydroxyl radicals. These findings suggest that some amino acids, such as Trp, Cys and Met, have good potential as radioprotectors for preventing DNA damage in normal tissues in carbon-ion therapy.

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