Radulescu, I., Elmroth, K. and Stenerlöw, B. Chromatin Organization Contributes to Non-randomly Distributed Double-Strand Breaks after Exposure to High-LET Radiation. Radiat. Res. 161, 1–8 (2004).
The influence of higher-order chromatin structure on the non-random distribution of DNA double-strand breaks induced by high-LET radiation was investigated. Five different chromatin structures (intact cells, condensed and decondensed chromatin, nucleoids and naked genomic DNA) from GM5758 cells or K562 cells were irradiated with 137Cs γ-ray photons and 125 keV/μm nitrogen ions (16–25 MeV/nucleon). DNA was purified with a modified lysis procedure to avoid release of heat-labile sites, and fragment size distributions and double-strand break yields were analyzed by different pulsed-field gel electrophoresis protocols. Whereas double-strand breaks in photon-irradiated cells were randomly distributed, irradiation of intact K562 cells with high-LET nitrogen ions produced an excess of non-randomly distributed DNA fragments 10 kb–1 Mbp in size. Complete removal of proteins eliminated this non-random component. There was a gradual increase in the yield of double-strand breaks for each chromatin decondensation step, and compared to intact cells, the yields for naked DNA (in buffer without scavengers) increased 83 and 25 times after photon and nitrogen-ion irradiation, respectively. The corresponding relative biological effectiveness decreased from 1.6–1.8 for intact cells to 0.49 for the naked DNA. We conclude that the organization of DNA into chromatin fiber and higher-order structures is responsible for the majority of non-randomly distributed double-strand breaks induced by high-LET radiation. However, our data suggest a complex interaction between track structure and chromatin organization over several levels.