The lack of cytotoxic effect and radioadaptive response in splenocytes of mice exposed to low level internal β-particle irradiation through tritiated drinking water in vivo

Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Dec 5;14(12):23791-800. doi: 10.3390/ijms141223791.


Health effects of tritium, a β-emitter and a by-product of the nuclear industry, is a subject of significant controversy. This mouse in vivo study was undertaken to monitor biological effects of low level tritium exposure. Mice were exposed to tritiated drinking water (HTO) at 10 KBq/L, 1 MBq/L and 20 MBq/L concentrations for one month. The treatment did not result in a significant increase of apoptosis in splenocytes. To examine if this low level tritium exposure alters radiosensitivity, the extracted splenocytes were challenged in vitro with 2 Gy γ-radiation, and apoptotic responses at 1 and 24 h were measured. No alterations in the radiosensitivity were detected in cells from mice exposed to tritium compared to sham-treated mice. In contrast, low dose γ-irradiation at 20 or 100 mGy, resulted in a significant increase in resistance to apoptotic cell death after 2 Gy irradiation; an indication of the radioadaptive response. Overall, our data suggest that low concentrations of tritium given to mice as HTO in drinking water do not exert cytotoxic effect in splenocytes, nor do they change cellular sensitivity to additional high dose γ-radiation. The latter may be considered as the lack of a radioadaptive response, typically observed after low dose γ-irradiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • Beta Particles
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Drinking Water / chemistry*
  • Female
  • G1 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / radiation effects
  • Gamma Rays
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / radiation effects*
  • Time Factors
  • Tritium / chemistry


  • Drinking Water
  • Tritium