Clustered DNA Damage Patterns after Proton Therapy Beam Irradiation Using Plasmid DNA

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Dec 9;23(24):15606. doi: 10.3390/ijms232415606.


Modeling ionizing radiation interaction with biological matter is a major scientific challenge, especially for protons that are nowadays widely used in cancer treatment. That presupposes a sound understanding of the mechanisms that take place from the early events of the induction of DNA damage. Herein, we present results of irradiation-induced complex DNA damage measurements using plasmid pBR322 along a typical Proton Treatment Plan at the MedAustron proton and carbon beam therapy facility (energy 137-198 MeV and Linear Energy Transfer (LET) range 1-9 keV/μm), by means of Agarose Gel Electrophoresis and DNA fragmentation using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). The induction rate Mbp-1 Gy-1 for each type of damage, single strand breaks (SSBs), double-strand breaks (DSBs), base lesions and non-DSB clusters was measured after irradiations in solutions with varying scavenging capacity containing 2-amino-2-(hydroxymethyl)propane-1,3-diol (Tris) and coumarin-3-carboxylic acid (C3CA) as scavengers. Our combined results reveal the determining role of LET and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in DNA fragmentation. Furthermore, AFM used to measure apparent DNA lengths provided us with insights into the role of increasing LET in the induction of highly complex DNA damage.

Keywords: Agarose Gel Electrophoresis (AGE); Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM); biodosimetry; clustered DNA damage; damage biomarkers; linear energy transfer (LET); proton therapy beam; scavenging capacity.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Damage
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Proton Therapy*
  • Protons*


  • Protons
  • DNA

Grants and funding