The biological impact of ionizing radiation (IR) on humans depends not only on the physical properties and absorbed dose of radiation but also on the unique susceptibility of the exposed individual. A critical target of IR is DNA, and the DNA damage response is a safeguard mechanism for maintaining genomic integrity in response to the induced cellular stress. Unrepaired DNA lesions lead to various mutations, contributing to adverse health effects. Cellular sensitivity to IR is highly correlated with the ability of cells to repair DNA lesions, in particular coding sequences of genes that affect that process and of others that contribute to preserving genomic integrity. However, accurate profiling of the molecular events underlying individual sensitivity requires techniques with sensitive readouts. Here we summarize recent studies that have used whole-genome analysis and identified genes that impact individual radiosensitivity. Whereas microarray and RNA-seq provide a snapshot of the transcriptome, RNA interference (RNAi) and CRISPR-Cas9 techniques are powerful tools that enable modulation of gene expression and characterizing the function of specific genes involved in radiosensitivity or radioresistance. Notably, CRISPR-Cas9 has altered the landscape of genome-editing technology with its increased readiness, precision, and sensitivity. Identifying critical regulators of cellular radiosensitivity would help tailor regimens that enhance the efficacy of therapeutic treatments and fast-track prediction of clinical outcomes. It would also contribute to occupational protection based on average individual sensitivity, as well as the formulation of countermeasures to the harmful effects of radiation.
Keywords: CRISPR-Cas9; genome editing; ionizing radiation; radioresistance; radiosensitivity.