Apoptosis induced at different dose rates: implication for the shoulder region of cell survival curves

Radiother Oncol. 1994 Aug;32(2):129-36. doi: 10.1016/0167-8140(94)90099-x.


Apoptosis is induced by radiation, administered at different dose rates of 3-60 Gy/h, in rat embryo cells transfected with a c-myc oncogene (REC:myc(ch1)) or with a c-Ha-ras oncogene (REC:ras(ch1)). Apoptosis is evaluated in terms of altered morphology, chromatin condensation and DNA fragmentation. The apoptotic dose response of REC:myc(ch1) rises steeply at low doses (to about 40% at 5 Gy), and reaches a plateau at high doses (of about 60% at > 15 Gy). In comparison with REC:myc(ch1), the REC:ras(ch1) is much less susceptible, with a maximum apoptotic fraction of about 10%. Interestingly, radiation-induced apoptosis is nearly dose-rate independent. In parallel, we assessed radiation-induced cell-killing as assayed by colony-formation. In contrast to that observed for apoptosis, the dose response of colony-formation is strongly dependent on dose rate. Cell surviving fraction measured at 3 Gy/h decreases exponentially with dose, with REC:myc(ch1) exhibiting a steeper slope than REC:ras(ch1). Thus, the different low-dose-rate radiosensitivity of the two cell lines may in part be due to their different susceptibility to radiation-induced apoptosis. Taken together, these findings suggest that radiation-induced apoptosis contributes significantly to the initial (shoulder) region of acute dose-rate survival curves of susceptible cells, and may have implications for fractionated and low dose rate radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects*
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion / radiation effects
  • Cell Death / genetics
  • Cell Death / radiation effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Chromatin / radiation effects
  • Chromatin / ultrastructure
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / radiation effects
  • DNA Damage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Genes, myc / radiation effects*
  • Genes, ras / radiation effects*
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Radiation Tolerance / genetics
  • Radiotherapy
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Stem Cells / radiation effects


  • Chromatin
  • DNA