Generations of students in radiation biology have been taught that heritable biological effects require direct damage to DNA. Radiation-induced non-targeted/bystander effects represent a paradigm shift in our understanding of the radiobiological effects of ionizing radiation in that extranuclear and extracellular effects may also contribute to the biological consequences of exposure to low doses of radiation. Although radiation induced bystander effects have been well documented in a variety of biological systems, including 3D human tissue samples and whole organisms, the mechanism is not known. There is recent evidence that the NF-κB-dependent gene expression of interleukin 8, interleukin 6, cyclooxygenase- 2, tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 33 in directly irradiated cells produced the cytokines and prostaglandin E2 with autocrine/paracrine functions, which further activated signaling pathways and induced NF-κB-dependent gene expression in bystander cells. The observations that heritable DNA alterations can be propagated to cells many generations after radiation exposure and that bystander cells exhibit genomic instability in ways similar to directly hit cells indicate that the low dose radiation response is a complex interplay of various modulating factors. The potential implication of the non-targeted response in radiation induced secondary cancer is discussed. A better understanding of the mechanism of the non-targeted effects will be invaluable to assess its clinical relevance and ways in which the bystander phenomenon can be manipulated to increase therapeutic gain in radiotherapy.
Keywords: Clinical relevance, cyclooxygenase-2, MAPK signaling, NF-κB, non-targeted/bystander effects, radiation-induced second tumor, human-hamster hybrid, RADIATION-INDUCED NON-TARGETED EFFECTS, Gap Junction-Mediated Response
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