Experiments were carried out to explore the correlation between chromatin conformation changes in the presence of DNA lesions and the formation of radiation-induced chromosomal aberrations. To modulate the onset and dynamics of chromatin conformation changes following irradiation, premature chromosome condensation (PCC) was induced by means of cell fusion. G2-check point abrogation by caffeine or elevated heat treatment was also applied. In addition, transfer of irradiated mitotic cells was employed either into depleted media to restrain them from proceeding through G1/S, or holding them further in colcemid to avoid M/G1 transition. To investigate the correlation between efficiency of chromosomal conformation changes and chromosomal breakage in irradiated G0 peripheral blood lymphocytes, cell fusion with different mitotic PCC-inducer cells was used. The experimental evidence supports the hypothesis that functional cell-cycle chromatin conformation changes in the presence of DNA damage are important determinants in the formation of radiation-induced chromosomal aberrations. Specifically, it is proposed here that following irradiation, chromatin structure may not be broken but instead it unfolds to a conformation that is more accessible to repair enzymes at the sites of DNA lesions. If subsequent chromosomal conformation changes occur while DNA is still being repaired, such changes will lead into an energetically unfavorable state, thus exerting mechanical stress on the unfolded chromatin at the damaged sites, which will in turn result into chromatid breaks that may not be able to restitute or mis-rejoin. Therefore, this biophysical conversion process of DNA damage into chromatid breaks as such is antagonistic to the DNA repair process. Alternatively, in the absence of chromosomal conformation changes, either DNA repair will take place efficiently or DNA misrepair will cause the formation of exchanges and chromosomal rearrangements. Consequently, the type and yield of radiation-induced chromosomal aberrations at a given cell cycle stage will be the combined effect of the interaction, at that particular stage, of the DNA repair process and the proposed conversion process of DNA lesions into chromatid breaks.
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