Purpose: Studies on radiation-induced changes in gene expression are likely to be very important in developing a better understanding of cellular responses to ionizing radiation. While there is some information on the activation of cellular signal transduction pathways after radiation, few late reacting target genes have been identified. This study focuses on the characterization of expression modulation of two critical growth regulatory genes, estrogen receptor and epidermal growth factor-receptor in malignant mammary epithelial cells in response to single and repeated ionizing radiation exposures.
Methods and materials: MCF-7 cells were used for single radiation exposure (2-50 Gy) experiments and MCF-IR-3 cells, generated by exposure to cumulative doses of 60 Gy in 2 Gy fractions, respectively, were used to study the effects of repeated exposures. Steady-state messenger ribonucleic acid levels for estrogen receptor, epidermal growth factor-receptor, and transforming growth factor-alpha were determined by ribonucleic acid protection experiments. Estrogen receptor and epidermal growth factor-receptor protein expression was quantitated by competitive binding studies with 3H-estradiol and 125I-EGF.
Results: MCF-IR-3 cells showed a permanent three-fold down-regulation of the estrogen receptor messenger ribonucleic acid and protein, while epidermal growth factor-receptor was upregulated about nine-fold. Epidermal growth factor-receptor was substantially up-regulated in MCF-7 cells, at both the mRNA and protein levels, within 24 h of a single 2 Gy exposures, while there was a two-fold concomitant increase in transforming growth factor-alpha messenger ribonucleic acid expression. A decrease in estrogen receptor messenger ribonucleic acid and protein was suggested only after higher doses of single radiation exposures.
Conclusion: Single and repeated radiation exposures modulate the expression of two critical growth promoting genes, estrogen receptor and epidermal growth factor-receptor, in MCF-7 cells. The inverse expression of estrogen receptor and epidermal growth factor-receptor established for estrogen receptor-positive malignant mammary epithelial cells is maintained in MCF-7 cells after single and repeated exposures suggesting that radiation acts through common regulatory circuits and may modulate the cellular phenotype.