Efficient mutation induction by 125I and 131I decays in DNA of human cells

Radiat Res. 1990 Jul;123(1):68-74.


To examine the role of radiation energy deposition in DNA on cellular effects, we investigated the ability of 125IdUrd and 131IdUrd to kill cells and induce mutations at the hprt locus. We employed human lymphoblastoid cells proficient (TK6) or deficient (SE30) in the ability to incorporate a thymidine analog into DNA by way of the thymidine kinase (TK) scavenger pathway. Iodine-125 releases a shower of low-energy Auger electrons upon decay which deposit most of their energy within 20 nm of the decay site, whereas 131I is a high-energy beta/gamma emitter that is generally considered to emit sparsely ionizing radiation. Although 125IdUrd incorporated into cellular DNA was very effective at producing toxic and mutagenic effects in TK6 cells, virtually no effect was seen in TK-deficient cells incubated with similar levels of 125IdUrd in the extracellular medium. In response to 131IdUrd treatment, 0.45 X 10(-6) mutants were induced per centigray dose deposited within the nucleus in TK-proficient cells, whereas few mutations were induced in TK-deficient cells at doses up to 38 cGy from 131I decays occurring in the medium. The differences in biological response between TK6 and SE30 cells cannot be explained by differential radiosensitivity or IdUrd sensitization of the cell lines involved. We conclude that both 125I and 131I decays occurring while incorporated into DNA are more effective at inducing cell killing and mutations in human cells than either nonincorporated decays or low-LET radiations. These results suggest that localized energy deposition is an important factor in producing biologically important damage by both of these isotopes, and that residual lesions following the decay of DNA-incorporated radioisotopes may contribute to the toxic and mutagenic effects observed in TK-proficient cells. Furthermore, they emphasize that certain beta/gamma-emitting isotopes such as 131I may be particularly hazardous when incorporated into DNA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Idoxuridine / metabolism
  • Iodine Radioisotopes*
  • Mutation*
  • Radioactivity


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • DNA
  • Idoxuridine