There is a current interest in the development of biodosimetric methods for rapidly assessing radiation exposure in the wake of a large-scale radiological event. This work was initially focused on determining the exposure dose to an individual using biological indicators. Gene expression signatures show promise for biodosimetric application, but little is known about how these signatures might translate for the assessment of radiological injury in radiosensitive individuals, who comprise a significant proportion of the general population, and who would likely require treatment after exposure to lower doses. Using Parp1–/– mice as a model radiation-sensitive genotype, we have investigated the effect of this DNA repair deficiency on the gene expression response to radiation. Although Parp1 is known to play general roles in regulating transcription, the pattern of gene expression changes observed in Parp1–/– mice 24 h postirradiation to a LD50/30 was remarkably similar to that in wild-type mice after exposure to LD50/30. Similar levels of activation of both the p53 and NFκB radiation response pathways were indicated in both strains. In contrast, exposure of wild-type mice to a sublethal dose that was equal to the Parp1–/– LD50/30 resulted in a lower magnitude gene expression response. Thus, Parp1–/– mice displayed a heightened gene expression response to radiation, which was more similar to the wild-type response to an equitoxic dose than to an equal absorbed dose. Gene expression classifiers trained on the wild-type data correctly identified all wild-type samples as unexposed, exposed to a sublethal dose or exposed to an LD50/30. All unexposed samples from Parp1–/– mice were also correctly classified with the same gene set, and 80% of irradiated Parp1–/– samples were identified as exposed to an LD50/30. The results of this study suggest that, at least for some pathways that may influence radiosensitivity in humans, specific gene expression signatures have the potential to accurately detect the extent of radiological injury, rather than serving only as a surrogate of physical radiation dose.
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Vol. 190 • No. 1