IR-inducible clusterin gene expression: a protein with potential roles in ionizing radiation-induced adaptive responses, genomic instability, and bystander effects

Mutat Res. 2004 Dec 2;568(1):97-110. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2004.06.049.


Clusterin (CLU) plays numerous roles in mammalian cells after stress. A review of the recent literature strongly suggests potential roles for CLU proteins in low dose ionizing radiation (IR)-inducible adaptive responses, bystander effects, and delayed death and genomic instability. Its most striking and evident feature is the inducibility of the CLU promoter after low, as well as high, doses of IR. Two major forms of CLU, secreted (sCLU) and nuclear (nCLU), possess opposite functions in cellular responses to IR: sCLU is cytoprotective, whereas nCLU (a byproduct of alternative splicing) is a pro-death factor. Recent studies from our laboratory and others demonstrated that down-regulation of sCLU by specific siRNA increased cytotoxic responses to chemotherapy and IR. sCLU was induced after low non-toxic doses of IR (0.02-0.5 Gy) in human cultured cells and in mice in vivo. The low dose inducibility of this survival protein suggests a possible role for sCLU in radiation adaptive responses, characterized by increased cell radioresistance after exposure to low adapting IR doses. Although it is still unclear whether the adaptive response is beneficial or not to cells, survival of damaged cells after IR may lead to genomic instability in the descendants of surviving cells. Recent studies indicate a link between sCLU accumulation and cancer incidence, as well as aging, supporting involvement of the protein in the development of genomic instability. Secreted after IR, sCLU may also alter intracellular communication due to its ability to bind cell surface receptors, such as the TGF-beta receptors (types I and II). This interference with signaling pathways may contribute to IR-induced bystander effects. We hypothesize that activation of the TGF-beta signaling pathway, which often occurs after IR exposure, can in turn activate the CLU promoter. TGF-beta and IR-inducible de novo synthesized sCLU may then bind the TGF-beta receptors and suppress downstream growth arrest signaling. This complicated negative feedback regulation most certainly depends on the cellular microenvironment, but undoubtedly represents a potential link between IR-induced adaptive responses, genomic instability and bystander effects. Further elucidation of clusterin protein functions in IR responses are clearly warranted.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bystander Effect*
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Clusterin
  • Gene Expression Regulation / radiation effects
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Glycoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Chaperones / biosynthesis
  • Molecular Chaperones / genetics
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism*
  • Protein Isoforms / biosynthesis
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Radiation Tolerance*
  • Radiation, Ionizing*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • CLU protein, human
  • Clusterin
  • Glycoproteins
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53