Proton therapy has been widely applied on treating inaccessible and inoperable tumors, such as tumors deep within the brain or close to the critical brain stem. Nevertheless, the damaging effect of radiation for central nervous system (CNS) tumors is difficult to be confined within the irradiated region and has led to decline of neurological function in especially children with congenital CNS tumors. Currently, the involvement of n-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors or secretary cytokines and chemokines in proton-induced bystander effects remains unclear. To understand the modulatory effects of NMDA receptor inhibition on the survival and proliferation of glioblastoma-derived cells, mesenchymal-like U373 cells were applied along with U87 neural glioblastoma cells for single doses of proton radiation at different LET in the presence or absence of pretreatment with memantine and/or collimation. Under collimation, neuronal tumor cells that are not directly irradiated (i.e., bystander cells) encounter similar biological effects potentially through cell coupling and synaptic transmission. Furthermore, whether proton LET plays a role in the mediation of bystander effect awaits to be elucidated. From this study, synaptic transmission was found to play differential roles in the proliferation of U373 and U87 cells after exposure to collimated radiation. Also, radiation-induced cell proliferation at the late stage was more correlated with bystander cell survival than early manifested γH2AX foci, suggesting that proton-induced glutamatergic synapse may act as a more important contributor than proton-induced direct effect on DNA double-stranded breaks to the late-stage responses of glioblastoma cells.

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