Dose and Dose-Rate Effects in a Mouse Model of Internal Exposure from 137Cs. Part 2: Integration of Gamma-H2AX and Gene Expression Biomarkers for Retrospective Radiation Biodosimetry

Radiat Res. 2020 Nov 1;196(5):491-500. doi: 10.1667/RADE-20-00042.1.


Inhalation and ingestion of 137Cs and other long-lived radionuclides can occur after large-scale accidental or malicious radioactive contamination incidents, resulting in a complex temporal pattern of radiation dose/dose rate, influenced by radionuclide pharmacokinetics and chemical properties. High-throughput radiation biodosimetry techniques for such internal exposure are needed to assess potential risks of short-term toxicity and delayed effects (e.g., carcinogenesis) for exposed individuals. Previously, we used γ-H2AX to reconstruct injected 137Cs activity in experimentally-exposed mice, and converted activity values into radiation doses based on time since injection and 137Cs-elimination kinetics. In the current study, we sought to assess the feasibility and possible advantages of combining γ-H2AX with transcriptomics to improve 137Cs activity reconstructions. We selected five genes (Atf5, Hist2h2aa2, Olfr358, Psrc1, Hist2h2ac) with strong statistically-significant Spearman's correlations with injected activity and stable expression over time after 137Cs injection. The geometric mean of log-transformed signals of these five genes, combined with γ-H2AX fluorescence, were used as predictors in a nonlinear model for reconstructing injected 137Cs activity. The coefficient of determination (R2) comparing actual and reconstructed activities was 0.91 and root mean squared error (RMSE) was 0.95 MBq. These metrics remained stable when the model was fitted to a randomly-selected half of the data and tested on the other half, repeated 100 times. Model performance was significantly better when compared to our previous analysis using γ-H2AX alone, and when compared to an analysis where genes are used without γ-H2AX, suggesting that integrating γ-H2AX with gene expression provides an important advantage. Our findings show a proof of principle that integration of radiation-responsive biomarkers from different fields is promising for radiation biodosimetry of internal emitters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cesium Radioisotopes*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Gamma Rays
  • Histones
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes
  • Mice


  • Cesium Radioisotopes
  • Histones
  • Cesium-137