Fakir, H., Sachs, R. K., Stenerlöw, B. and Hofmann, W. Clusters of DNA Double-Strand Breaks Induced by Different Doses of Nitrogen Ions for Various LETs: Experimental Measurements and Theoretical Analyses. Radiat. Res. 166, 917– 927 (2006).
The yields and clustering of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) were investigated in normal human skin fibroblasts exposed to γ rays or to a wide range of doses of nitrogen ions with various linear energy transfers (LETs). Data obtained by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis on the dose and LET dependence of DNA fragmentation were analyzed with the randomly located clusters (RLC) formalism. The formalism considers stochastic clustering of DSBs along a chromosome due to chromatin structure, particle track structure, and multitrack action. The relative biological effectiveness (RBE) for the total DSB yield did not depend strongly on LET, but particles with higher LET produced higher fractions of small DNA fragments, corresponding in the formalism to an increase in the average number of DSBs per DSB cluster. The results are consistent with the idea that DSB clustering along chromosomes is what leads to large RBEs of high-LET radiations for major biological end points. At a given dose, large fragments are less affected by the variability in LET than small fragments, suggesting that the two free ends in large fragments are often produced by two different tracks. The formalism successfully described an extra increase in small DNA fragments as dose increases and a related decrease in large fragments, mainly due to interlacing of DSB clusters produced along a chromosome by different tracks, since interlacing cuts larger DNA fragments into smaller ones.