Astronauts may be at an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer after a prolonged interplanetary mission given the potential for greater carcinogenic effects of radiation to the colon. In addition, with an increase in age, there is a greater incidence of premalignant colon adenomas with age. In the present study, we have compared the effects of radiation on human colon epithelial cells in two-dimensional (2D) monolayer culture, in three-dimensional (3D) culture, and in intact human colon tissue biopsies. Immortalized colon epithelial cells were irradiated at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) with either 1 Gy 1 GeV/nucleon 56Fe particles or 1 Gy 1 GeV/nucleon protons and were stained at various times to assess DNA damage and repair responses. The results show more persisting damage at 24 h with iron-particle radiation compared to protons. Similar results were seen in 3D colon epithelial cell cultures in which 56Fe-particle-irradiated specimens show more persisting damage at 24 h than those irradiated with low-LET γ rays. We compared these results to those obtained from human colon tissue biopsies irradiated with 1 Gy γ rays or 1 Gy 1 GeV 56Fe particles. Observations of radiation-induced DNA damage and repair in γ-irradiated specimens revealed more pronounced early DNA damage responses in the epithelial cell compartment compared to the stromal cell compartment. After low-LET irradiation, the damage foci mostly disappeared at 24 h. Antibodies to more than one type of DNA repair factor display this pattern of DNA damage, and staining of nonirradiated cells with non-phosphorylated DNA-PKcs shows a predominance of epithelial staining over stromal cells. Biopsy specimens irradiated with high-LET radiations also show a pattern of predominance of the DNA damage response in the highly proliferative epithelial cell compartment. Persistent unrepaired DNA damage in colon epithelial cells and the differing repair responses between the epithelial and mesenchymal compartments in tissues may enhance tumorigenesis by both stem cell transformation and alterations in the radiation-induced permissive tissue microenvironment that may potentiate cancer progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging