Radiosensitivity differs in humans and likely among primates. The reasons are not well known. We examined pre-exposure gene expression in baboons (n = 17) who developed haematologic acute radiation syndrome (HARS) without pancytopenia or a more aggravated HARS with pancytopenia after irradiation. We evaluated gene expression in a two stage study design where stage I comprised a whole genome screen for messenger RNAs (mRNA) (microarray) and detection of 667 microRNAs (miRNA) (real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) platform). Twenty candidate mRNAs and nine miRNAs were selected for validation in stage II (qRT-PCR). None of the mRNA species could be confirmed during the validation step, but six of the nine selected candidate miRNA remained significantly different during validation. In particular, miR-425-5p (receiver operating characteristic = 0.98; p = 0.0003) showed nearly complete discrimination between HARS groups with and without pancytopenia. Target gene searches of miR-425-5p identified new potential mRNAs and associated biological processes linked with radiosensitivity. We found that one miRNA species examined in pre-exposure blood samples was associated with HARS characterized by pancytopenia and identified new target mRNAs that might reflect differences in radiosensitivity of irradiated normal tissue.
Keywords: gene expression; haematologic acute radiation syndrome (HARS); miRNA; pancytopenia; radiosensitivity.