U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

DNA Repair More Efficient at Low versus High Doses of Ionizing Radiation
Published: December 19, 2011
Posted: January 12, 2012

The biological effects of ionizing radiation are determined, in part, by the efficiency with which radiation damage is repaired as a function of dose. The standard model of radiation-induced cancer risk applies a linear relationship to extrapolate from high to low doses of ionizing radiation. Scientists at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, studying the formation of radiation-induced DNA repair-protein complexes, have shown that multiple DNA double-strand breaks produced 1 to 2 ┬Ám apart can rapidly cluster together to form damage repair centers. Surprisingly, they observed that the absolute number of repair centers is more than 4-fold smaller at high versus low doses of ionizing radiation. This new discovery supports the hypothesis that DNA damage repair is more efficient at low versus high doses of radiation and casts further doubt on current risk models, which assume that cancer risk from exposure to ionizing radiation is linearly proportional to dose in the low dose range.

Reference: Neumaier, T., J. Swenson, C. Pham, A. Polyzos, A. T. Lo, P. Yang, J. Dyball, A. Asaithamby, D. J. Chen, M. J. Bissell, S. Thalhammer, and S. V. Costes. 2012. "Evidence for Formation of DNA Repair Centers and Dose-Response Nonlinearity in Human Cells," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 109(2), 443-48. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1117849108. (Reference link)

Contact: Noelle Metting, SC-23.2, (301) 903-8309
Topic Areas:

  • Legacy: Low Dose Radiation, Radiobiology

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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