The third instar larvae of Drosophila were irradiated with X rays, and the somatic mutation frequency in their wings was measured after their eclosion. In the flies with normal DNA repair and apoptosis functions, 0.2 Gy irradiation at 0.05 Gy/min reduced the frequency of the so-called small spot (mutant cell clone with reduced reproductive activity) compared with that in the sham-irradiated flies. When apoptosis was suppressed using the baculovirus p35 gene, the small spot frequency increased four times in the sham-irradiated control group, but the reduction by the 0.2-Gy irradiation was still evident. In a non-homologous end joining-deficient mutant, the small spot frequency was also reduced by 0.2 Gy radiation. In a mutant deficient in single-strand break repair, no reduction in the small spot frequency by 0.2 Gy radiation was observed, and the small spot frequency increased with the radiation dose. Large spot (mutant cell clone with normal reproductive activity) frequency was not affected by suppression of apoptosis and increased monotonically with radiation dose in wild-type larvae and in mutants for single- or double-strand break repair. It is hypothesized that some of the small spots resulted from single-strand damage and, in wild-type larvae, 0.2 Gy radiation activated the normal single-strand break repair gene, which reduced the background somatic mutation frequency.
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