Metabolic oxidation/reduction reactions and cellular responses to ionizing radiation: a unifying concept in stress response biology

Cancer Metastasis Rev. Aug-Dec 2004;23(3-4):311-22. doi: 10.1023/B:CANC.0000031769.14728.bc.


Exposure of eukaryotic cells to ionizing radiation (IR) results in the immediate formation of free radicals that last a matter of milliseconds. It has been assumed that the subsequent alterations in multiple intracellular processes following irradiation is due to the initial oxidative damage caused by these free radicals. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that intracellular metabolic oxidation/reduction (redox) reactions can be affected by this initial IR-induced free radical insult and may remain perturbed for minutes, hours, or days. It would seem logical that these cellular redox reactions might contribute to the activation of protective or damaging processes that could impact upon the damaging effects of IR. These processes include redox sensitive signaling pathways, transcription factor activation, gene expression, and metabolic activities that govern the formation of intracellular oxidants and reductants. The physiological manifestations of these radiation-induced alterations in redox sensitive processes have been suggested to contribute to adaptive responses, bystander effects, cell cycle perturbations, cytotoxicity, heat-induced radiosensitization, genomic instability, inflammation, and fibrosis. While a great deal is known about the molecular changes associated with the initial production of free radicals at the time of irradiation, the contribution of perturbations in redox sensitive metabolic processes to biological outcomes following exposure to IR is only recently becoming established. This review will focus on evidence supporting the concept that perturbations in intracellular metabolic oxidation/reduction reactions contribute to the biological effects of radiation exposure as well as new concepts emerging from the field of free radical biology that may be relevant to future studies in radiobiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / radiation effects
  • Genomic Instability / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction / radiation effects
  • Oxidative Stress / radiation effects*
  • Radiation, Ionizing*
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects