Understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the response of tumors to fractionated exposures to ionizing radiation is important for improving radiotherapy and/or radiochemotherapy. In the present study, we examined the expression of stress-related genes in an MCF-7 cell population (MCF-IR20) that has been derived through treatment with fractionated irradiation (2 Gy per fraction with a total dose of 40 Gy). MCF-IR20 cells showed a 1.6-fold increase in sensitization with dose at 10% isosurvival in a clonogenic assay, and a reduced growth delay ( approximately 15 h compared to approximately 27 h), compared to the parental MCF-7 cells treated with a single dose of 5 Gy. To determine which effector genes were altered in the MCF-IR20 cells, the expression of stress-related effector genes was measured using a filter with 588 genes (Clontech) that included major elements involved in cell cycle control, DNA repair, and apoptosis. Compared to MCF-7 cells that were not exposed to fractionated radiation, 19 genes were up- regulated (2.2-5.1-fold) and 4 were down-regulated (2.7-3.4- fold) in the MCF-IR20 cells. In agreement with the array results, 6 up-regulated genes tested by RT-PCR showed elevated expression. Also, activities of the stress-related transcription factors NFKB, TP53 and AP1 showed a 1.2-4.5-fold increase after a single dose of 5 Gy in MCF-IR20 cells compared with parental MCF-7 cells. However, when the radioresistant MCF-IR20 cell were cultured for more than 12 passages after fractionated irradiation (MCF-RV), radioresistance was lost, with the radiosensitivity being the same as the parental MCF- 7 cells. Interestingly, expression levels of CCNB1, CD9 and CDKN1A in MCF-RV cells returned to levels expressed by the parental cells, whereas the expression levels of three other genes, MSH2, MSH6 and RPA remained elevated. To determine if any of the changes in gene expression could be responsible for the induced radioresistance, CCNB1 and CDKN1A, both of which were up-regulated in MCF-IR20 cells and down-regulated in MCF-RV cells, were studied further by transfection with antisense oligonucleotides. Antisense of CCNB1 significantly reduced the clonogenic survival of MCF- IR20 cells at doses of 5 and 10 Gy, from 42% to 26% and from 5.7% to 1.0%, respectively. Antisense of CDKN1A, however, had no effect on radiation survival of MCF-IR20 cells. In summary, these results suggest that stress-related effector genes are altered in cells after treatment with fractionated irradiation, and that up-regulation of CCNB1 is responsible, at least in part, for radioresistance after fractionated irradiation.