There is an increasing need to better understand the long-term health effects of high-linear energy transfer (LET) radiation due to exposure during space missions, as well as its increasing use in clinical treatments. Previous studies have indicated that exposure to 56Fe heavy ions increases the incidence of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in mice but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain elusive. Epigenetic alterations play a role in radiation-induced genomic instability and the initiation and progression of AML. In this study, we assessed the effects of low-dose 56Fe-ion irradiation on epigenetic alterations in bone marrow mononuclear cells (BM-MNCs) and hematopoietic progenitor and stem cells (HPSCs). Exposure to 56Fe ions (600 MeV, 0.1, 0.2 and 0.4 Gy) resulted in significant epigenetic alterations involving methylation of DNA, the DNA methylation machinery and expression of repetitive elements. Four weeks after irradiation, these changes were primarily confined to HPSCs and were exhibited as dose-dependent hypermethylation of LINE1 and SINE B1 repetitive elements [4.2-fold increase in LINE1 (P < 0.001) and 7.6-fold increase in SINE B1 (P < 0.01) after exposure to 0.4 Gy; n = 5]. Epigenetic alterations were persistent and detectable for at least 22 weeks after exposure, when significant loss of global DNA hypomethylation (1.9-fold, P < 0.05), decreased expression of Dnmt1 (1.9-fold, P < 0.01), and increased expression of LINE1 and SINE B1 repetitive elements (2.8-fold, P < 0.001 for LINE1 and 1.9-fold, P < 0.05 for SINE B1; n = 5) were observed after exposure to 0.4 Gy. In contrast, exposure to 56Fe ions did not result in accumulation of increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and DNA damage, exhibited as DNA strand breaks. Furthermore, no significant alterations in cellular senescence and apoptosis were detected in HPSCs after exposure to 56Fe-ion radiation. These findings suggest that epigenetic reprogramming is possibly involved in the development of radiation-induced genomic instability and thus, may have a causative role in the development of AML.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging