The effects of long-term low-dose X-ray irradiation on the outer root sheath (ORS) cells of C3H/He mice were investigated. Mice were irradiated with a regime of 100 mGy/day, 5 days/week, for 12 weeks (Group X) and the results obtained were compared to those in a non-irradiated control (Group C). Potential protection against ORS cells damage induced by this exposure was investigated by adding the stable nitroxide radical 4-hydroxyl-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxyl (TEMPOL) at 1 mM to the drinking water of mice (Group X + TEMPOL). The results obtained were compared with Group C and a non-irradiated group treated with TEMPOL (Group C + TEMPOL). After fractionated X-ray irradiation, skin was removed and ORS cells were examined by hematoxylin and eosin staining and electron microscopy for an abnormal nuclear morphology and nuclear condensation changes. Fractionated X-irradiated mice had an increased number of ORS cells with an abnormal nuclear morphology as well as nuclear condensation changes. Sections were also immunohistochemically examined for the presence of TdT-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL), 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG), 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), nitrotyrosine, heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1), and protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5). Significant increases were observed in TUNEL, 8-OHdG, and 4-HNE levels in ORS cells from mice in Group X. Electron microscopy also showed irregular shrunken ORS cells in Group X. These changes were prevented by the presence of TEMPOL in the drinking water of the irradiated mice. TEMPOL alone had no significant effects. These results suggest that fractionated doses of radiation induced oxidative damage in ORS cells; however, TEMPOL provided protection against this damage, possibly as a result of the rapid reaction of this nitroxide radical with the reactive oxidants generated by fractionated X-ray irradiation.

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