Free radical-initiated and gap junction-mediated bystander effect due to nonuniform distribution of incorporated radioactivity in a three-dimensional tissue culture model

Radiat Res. 2001 Feb;155(2):335-44. doi: 10.1667/0033-7587(2001)155[0335:friagj];2.


To investigate the biological effects of nonuniform distribution of radioactivity in mammalian cells, we have developed a novel three-dimensional tissue culture model. Chinese hamster V79 cells were labeled with tritiated thymidine and mixed with unlabeled cells, and multicellular clusters (approximately 1.6 mm in diameter) were formed by gentle centrifugation. The short-range beta particles emitted by (3)H impart only self-irradiation of labeled cells without significant cross-irradiation of unlabeled bystander cells. The clusters were assembled in the absence or presence of 10% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and/or 100 microM lindane. DMSO is a hydroxyl radical scavenger, whereas lindane is an inhibitor of gap junctional intercellular communication. The clusters were maintained at 10.5 degrees C for 72 h to allow (3)H decays to accumulate and then dismantled, and the cells were plated for colony formation. When 100% of the cells were labeled, the surviving fraction was exponentially dependent on the mean level of radioactivity per labeled cell. A two-component exponential response was observed when either 50 or 10% of the cells were labeled. Though both DMSO and lindane significantly protected the unlabeled or bystander cells when 50 or 10% of the cells were labeled, the effect of lindane was greater than that of DMSO. In both cases, the combined treatment (DMSO + lindane) elicited maximum protection of the bystander cells. These results suggest that the bystander effects caused by nonuniform distributions of radioactivity are affected by the fraction of cells that are labeled. Furthermore, at least a part of these bystander effects are initiated by free radicals and are likely to be mediated by gap junctional intercellular communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Beta Particles
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Communication
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / pharmacology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / radiation effects*
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Free Radicals
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane / pharmacology
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / pharmacology
  • Thymidine / metabolism*
  • Tritium / metabolism*


  • Free Radicals
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Tritium
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Thymidine
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide