Clustered DNA damage concentrated in particle trajectories causes persistent large-scale rearrangements in chromatin architecture

Radiother Oncol. 2018 Dec;129(3):600-610. doi: 10.1016/j.radonc.2018.07.003. Epub 2018 Jul 23.


Background and purpose: High linear-energy-transfer (LET) irradiation (IR) is characterized by unique depth-dose distribution and advantageous biologic effectiveness compared to low-LET-IR, offering promising alternatives for radio-resistant tumors in clinical oncology. While low-LET-IR induces single DNA lesions such as double-strand breaks (DSBs), localized energy deposition along high-LET particle trajectories induces clustered DNA lesions that are more challenging to repair. During DNA damage response (DDR) 53BP1 and ATM are required for Kap1-dependent chromatin relaxation, thereby sustaining heterochromatic DSB repair. Here, spatiotemporal dynamics of chromatin restructuring were visualized during DDR after high-LET and low-LET-IR.

Material and methods: Human fibroblasts were irradiated with high-LET carbon/calcium ions or low-LET photons. At 0.1 h, 0.5 h, 5 h and 24 h post-IR fluorophore- and gold-labeled repair factors (53BP1, pATM, pKAP-1, pKu70) were visualized by immunofluorescence and transmission electron microscopy, to monitor formation and repair of DNA damage in chromatin ultrastructure. To track chromatin remodeling at damage sites, decondensed regions (DCR) were delineated based on local chromatin concentration densities.

Results: Low-LET-IR induced single DNA lesions throughout the nucleus, but nearly all DSBs were efficiently rejoined without visible chromatin decompaction. High-LET-IR induced clustered DNA damage and triggered profound changes in chromatin structure along particle trajectories. In DCR multiple heterochromatic DSBs exhibited delayed repair despite cooperative activity of 53BP1, pATM, pKap-1. These closely localized DSBs may disturb efficient repair and subsequent chromatin restoration, thereby affecting large-scale genome organization.

Conclusion: Clustered damage concentrated in particle trajectories causes persistent rearrangements in chromatin architecture, which may affect structural and functional organization of cell nuclei.

Keywords: Charged-particle radiotherapy; Chromatin remodeling; DNA damage; Double-strand breaks (DSBs); Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ); Particle trajectories; Transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatin / radiation effects*
  • Chromatin / ultrastructure
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair
  • Humans
  • Ku Autoantigen / analysis
  • Linear Energy Transfer
  • Tumor Suppressor p53-Binding Protein 1 / analysis


  • Chromatin
  • TP53BP1 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor p53-Binding Protein 1
  • Ku Autoantigen