The identification of serum biomarkers of high-let radiation exposure and biological sequelae

Health Phys. 2010 Feb;98(2):196-203. doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e3181acff7c.


In the event of a nuclear detonation, thousands of people will be exposed to non-lethal radiation doses. There are multiple long-term health concerns for exposed individuals who receive non-lethal radiation exposures. Low doses of radiation, especially of high linear energy transfer (LET) radiation, can lead to the development of neurocognitive defects. The identification of serum biomarkers that can be used to monitor the emergence of the long-term biological sequelae of radiation exposure, such as neurocognitive defects, would greatly help the post-exposure health monitoring of the affected population. The authors have determined the impact that cranial irradiation with 2 Gy of high LET (150 keV um) has on the ability of rats to perform spatial memory tasks, and identified serum protein changes that are biomarkers of radiation exposure and of radiation-induced neurocognitive impairment. Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectroscopy (MALDI TOF-TOF) analysis of weak cation exchange (WCX) enriched serum protein preparations identified 23 proteins of interest: 10 were biomarkers of physical radiation dose, with six showing increased expression and four being undetectable in the irradiated rat serum. Four proteins were uniquely expressed in those rats that had good spatial memory and nine proteins were markers of bad spatial memory. This study provides proof of the concept that serum protein profiling can be used to identify biomarkers of radiation exposure and the emergence of radiation-sequelae in this rat model, and this approach could be easily applied to other systems to identify radiation biomarkers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Blood Proteins / analysis*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Linear Energy Transfer*
  • Male
  • Memory / radiation effects*
  • Memory Disorders / blood*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Injuries / blood*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Radiation Injuries / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Proteins