White Matter is the Predilection Site of Late-Delayed Radiation-Induced Brain Injury in Non-Human Primates

Radiat Res. 2019 Mar;191(3):217-231. doi: 10.1667/RR15263.1. Epub 2019 Jan 29.


Fractionated whole-brain irradiation for the treatment of intracranial neoplasia causes progressive neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation. The long-term consequences of single-fraction high-dose irradiation to the brain are unknown. To assess the late effects of brain irradiation we compared transcriptomic gene expression profiles from nonhuman primates (NHP; rhesus macaques Macaca mulatta) receiving single-fraction total-body irradiation (TBI; n = 5, 6.75-8.05 Gy, 6-9 years prior to necropsy) to those receiving fractionated whole-brain irradiation (fWBI; n = 5, 40 Gy, 8 × 5 Gy fractions; 12 months prior to necropsy) and control comparators (n = 5). Gene expression profiles from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), hippocampus (HC) and deep white matter (WM; centrum semiovale) were compared. Stratified analyses by treatment and region revealed that radiation-induced transcriptomic alterations were most prominent in animals receiving fWBI, and primarily affected white matter in both TBI and fWBI groups. Unsupervised canonical and ontologic analysis revealed that TBI or fWBI animals demonstrated shared patterns of injury, including white matter neuroinflammation, increased expression of complement factors and T-cell activation. Both irradiated groups also showed evidence of impaired glutamatergic neurotransmission and signal transduction within white matter, but not within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or hippocampus. Signaling pathways and structural elements involved in extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition and remodeling were noted within the white matter of animals receiving fWBI, but not of those receiving TBI. These findings indicate that those animals receiving TBI are susceptible to neurological injury similar to that observed after fWBI, and these changes persist for years postirradiation. Transcriptomic profiling reaffirmed that macrophage/microglial-mediated neuroinflammation is present in radiation-induced brain injury (RIBI), and our data provide novel evidence that the complement system may contribute to the pathogenesis of RIBI. Finally, these data challenge the assumption that the hippocampus is the predilection site of injury in RIBI, and indicate that impaired glutamatergic neurotransmission may occur in white matter injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Gene Ontology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / etiology*
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / genetics*
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Transcriptome / radiation effects
  • White Matter / metabolism
  • White Matter / pathology
  • White Matter / radiation effects*