The relation between microdosimetry and induction of direct damage to DNA by alpha particles

Phys Med Biol. 2021 Jul 30;66(15):10.1088/1361-6560/ac15a5. doi: 10.1088/1361-6560/ac15a5.


In radiopharmaceutical treatmentsα-particles are employed to treat tumor cells. However, the mechanism that drives the biological effect induced is not well known. Being ionizing radiation,α-particles can affect biological organisms by producing damage to the DNA, either directly or indirectly. Following the principle that microdosimetry theory accounts for the stochastic way in which radiation deposits energy in sub-cellular sized volumes via physical collisions, we postulate that microdosimetry represents a reasonable framework to characterize the statistical nature of direct damage induction byα-particles to DNA. We used the TOPAS-nBio Monte Carlo package to simulate direct damage produced by monoenergetic alpha particles to different DNA structures. In separate simulations, we obtained the frequency-mean lineal energy (yF) and dose-mean lineal energy (yD) of microdosimetric distributions sampled with spherical sites of different sizes. The total number of DNA strand breaks, double strand breaks (DSBs) and complex strand breaks per track were quantified and presented as a function of eitheryForyD.The probability of interaction between a track and the DNA depends on how the base pairs are compacted. To characterize this variability on compactness, spherical sites of different size were used to match these probabilities of interaction, correlating the size-dependent specific energy (z) with the damage induced. The total number of DNA strand breaks per track was found to linearly correlate withyFandzFwhen using what we defined an effective volume as microdosimetric site, while the yield of DSB per unit dose linearly correlated withyDorzD,being larger for compacted than for unfolded DNA structures. The yield of complex breaks per unit dose exhibited a quadratic behavior with respect toyDand a greater difference among DNA compactness levels. Microdosimetric quantities correlate with the direct damage imparted on DNA.

Keywords: DNA direct damage; TOPAS; TOPAS-nBio; alpha particles; microdosimetry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Particles* / adverse effects
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA* / genetics
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Radiation, Ionizing


  • DNA