Experiments were designed to determine the relative radiosensitivity of the cell transition points of G1 → S and G2 → M in root meristems of several plant species. Label and mitotic indices and microspectrophotometry were used to measure the proportions of cells in each mitotic cycle stage in root meristems after protracted gamma radiation. The criterion of radiosensitivity was the dose rate needed to produce a tissue with less than 1% cells in S and none in M after 3 days of continuous exposure. The results show that DNA is the primary radiation target in proliferative root meristems and that the cycle duration stipulates the time interval of vulnerability. In each species, nonrandom reproducible cell proportions were established with 2C:4C:8C amounts of nuclear DNA after 3 days of exposure. Roots of Helianthus annuus, Crepis capillaris, and Tradescantia clone 02 had 80% cells with a 2C amount of DNA and 20% had a 4C amount of DNA. In these species the transition point of G1 → S was more radiosensitive than G2 → M. Roots of Pisum sativum and Triticum aestivum had cell proportions at 2C:4C:8C amounts of DNA in frequencies of 0.10-0.20:0.40-0.60:0.30-0.40. In these two species 0.30-0.40 cells underwent radiation-induced endoreduplication that resulted from a rapid inhibition of cell transit from G2 → M and a slower impairment of G1 → S. Cells increased from 2C to 4C and from 4C to 8C amounts of DNA during irradiation. The proportions of nuclei with 2C:4C:8C amounts of DNA were dependent in part upon the relative radiosensitivity of the G1 → S and G2 → M control points. The data show the relative radiosensitivity of the transition points from G1 → S and from G2 → M was species specific and unrelated to the cycle duration and mean nuclear DNA content of the plant species.

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