The global threat of exposure to radiation and its subsequent outcomes require the development of effective strategies to mitigate immune cell injury. In this study we explored transcriptional and immunophenotypic characteristics of lymphoid organs of a non-human primate model after total-body irradiation (TBI). Fifteen middle-aged adult, ovariectomized, female cynomolgus macaques received a single dose of 0, 2 or 5 Gy gamma radiation. Thymus, spleen and lymph node from three controls and 2 Gy (n = 2) and 5 Gy (n = 2) exposed animals were assessed for molecular responses to TBI through microarray-based transcriptional profiling at day 5 postirradiation, and cellular changes through immunohistochemical (IHC) characterization of markers for B and T lymphocytes and macrophages across all 15 animals at time points up to 6 months postirradiation. Irradiated macaques developed acute hematopoietic syndrome. Analysis of array data at day 5 postirradiation identified transcripts with ≥2-fold difference from control and a false discovery rate (FDR) of Padj < 0.05 in lymph node (n = 666), spleen (n = 493) and thymus (n=3,014). Increasing stringency of the FDR to P < 0.001 reduced the number of genes to 71 for spleen and 379 for thymus. IHC and gene expression data demonstrated that irradiated animals had reduced numbers of T and B lymphocytes along with relative elevations of macrophages. Transcriptional analysis revealed unique patterns in primary and secondary lymphoid organs of cynomolgus macaques. Among the many differentially regulated transcripts, upregulation of noncoding RNAs [MIR34A for spleen and thymus and NEAT1 (NCRNA00084) for thymus] showed potential as biomarkers of radiation injury and targets for mitigating the effects of radiation-induced hematopoietic syndrome-impaired lymphoid reconstitution.
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Vol. 192 • No. 1