A significant target for radiation-induced effects is the microvascular system, which is critical to healthy tissue function and its pathology is linked to disrupted endothelial barrier function. Low-linear energy transfer (LET) ionizing radiation is a source of noncancer pathologies in humans and little is known about the early events that could initiate subsequent diseases. However, it is well known that gamma radiation causes a very early disruption of the endothelial barrier at doses below those required for cytotoxic effects. After irradiation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to doses as low as 2 Gy, transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) is transiently reduced at 3 h, and the platelet-derived endothothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM-1 or CD31) is uncoupled from the cells along with the release of endothelial microparticles (EMPs). In this study, we measured TEER reduction as an indicator of barrier function loss, and specifically examined the shedding of EMPs from human endothelial barrier models after a variety of low-LET irradiations, including photons and charged particles. Our findings showed two TEER responses, dependent on radiation type and environmental conditions. The first response was diminishing oscillations of TEER, which occurred during the first 10 h postirradiation. This response occurred after a 5 Gy proton or helium-ion (1 GeV/n) dose in addition to a 5 Gy gamma or X radiation dose. This occurred only in the presence of multiple growth factors and did not show a dose response, nor was it associated with EMP release. The second response was a single acute drop in TEER at 3 h after photon irradiation. Dose response was observed and was associated with the shedding of EMPs in 2D barrier cultures and in 3D vessel models. In this case, helium-ion and proton irradiations did not induce a drop in TEER or shedding of EMPs. The photon radiation effects was observed both in serum-free media and in the presence of multiple growth factors, indicating that it occurs under a range of environmental conditions. These results show an acute response of the human endothelial barrier that is relevant to photon irradiation. Significantly, it involves the release of EMPs, which have recently attracted attention due to their emerging clinical importance.
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Vol. 186 • No. 6