Hoyes, K. P., Lord, B. I., McCann, C., Hendry, J. H. and Morris I. D. Transgenerational Effects of Preconception Paternal Contamination with 55Fe. Radiat. Res. 156, 488–494 (2001).
The conjecture that germline mutations induced by radiation exposure before conception may predispose subsequent offspring to cancer remains contentious. Previous experimental studies have shown that preconception paternal irradiation with 239Pu induces perturbations in the hemopoietic systems of offspring and influences sensitivity to a secondary carcinogen. In the present study, male DBA2 mice were injected intravenously with the Auger electron emitter 55Fe (4 kBq g–1) 18 or 84 days before mating with normal females. Comet analysis showed an increased incidence of DNA strand breaks in sperm from contaminated animals after 84 days, but not after 18 days, indicating spermatogonial rather than spermatid damage. Offspring were either assayed for changes in bone marrow stem cells and committed progenitors or challenged with the chemical carcinogen methyl nitrosourea (MNU, 50 mg/kg) at 10 weeks of age and monitored for the onset of malignancy. Offspring from irradiated fathers had normal peripheral blood profiles, although the stem cell population was amplified in offspring arising from those exposed to 55Fe at 84 days before conception. Exposure to MNU significantly increased the incidence of lympho-hemopoietic malignancies in offspring from the 84-day group, but not in those from the 18-day group. These findings support the hypothesis that aberrations that are potentially leukemogenic may be transmitted to offspring after radiation damage to the paternal germline.