In the clinical setting, repeated exposures (10-30) to low-doses of ionizing radiation (≤200 cGy), as seen in radiotherapy for cancer, causes fatigue. Almost nothing is known, however, about the fatigue inducing effects of a single exposure to environmental low-dose ionizing radiation that might occur during high-altitude commercial air flight, a nuclear reactor accident or a solar particle event (SPE). To investigate the short-term impact of low-dose ionizing radiation on mouse biobehaviors and neuroimmunity, male CD-1 mice were whole body irradiated with 50 cGy or 200 cGy of gamma or proton radiation. Gamma radiation was found to reduce spontaneous locomotor activity by 35% and 36%, respectively, 6 h post irradiation. In contrast, the motivated behavior of social exploration was un-impacted by gamma radiation. Examination of pro-inflammatory cytokine gene transcripts in the brain demonstrated that gamma radiation increased hippocampal TNF-α expression as early as 4 h post-irradiation. This was coupled to subsequent increases in IL-1RA (8 and 12 h post irradiation) in the cortex and hippocampus and reductions in activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc) (24 h post irradiation) in the cortex. Finally, restraint stress was a significant modulator of the neuroimmune response to radiation blocking the ability of 200 cGy gamma radiation from impairing locomotor activity and altering the brain-based inflammatory response to irradiation. Taken together, these findings indicate that low-dose ionizing radiation rapidly activates the neuroimmune system potentially causing early onset fatigue-like symptoms in mice.
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