Radiation apoptosis of serous acinar cells of salivary and lacrimal glands

Cancer. 1991 Mar 15;67(6):1539-43. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19910315)67:6<1539::aid-cncr2820670613>3.0.co;2-q.


Xerostomia and xerophthalmia are common and potentially serious local side effects of radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. Clinical observations supported by experimental findings show that radiation, even in low doses, causes acute diminutions of saliva and tears by rapidly killing the serous cells of the salivary and lacrimal glands, respectively. Serous acini of salivary and lacrimal glands have similar developmental, morphologic, and functional characteristics. Serous acinar cells are functionally mature, secretory epithelial cells that normally do not divide and are long lived. Irradiation of the salivary and lacrimal glands of rhesus monkeys resulted in selective death of serous acinar cells within 24 hours. The paradigm for acute radiation seroadenosis is intermitotic or interphase cell death caused by apoptosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology
  • Cells, Cultured / radiation effects
  • Cytoplasm / pathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / pathology
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / radiation effects*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Parotid Gland / pathology
  • Parotid Gland / radiation effects
  • Salivary Glands / pathology
  • Salivary Glands / radiation effects*