Lowe, X. R., Bhattacharya, S., Marchetti, F. and Wyrobek, A. J. Early Brain Response to Low-Dose Radiation Exposure Involves Molecular Networks and Pathways Associated with Cognitive Functions, Advanced Aging and Alzheimer's Disease. Radiat. Res. 171, 53–65 (2009).
Understanding the cognitive and behavioral consequences of brain exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation has broad relevance for health risks from medical radiation diagnostic procedures, radiotherapy and environmental nuclear contamination as well as for Earth-orbit and space missions. Analyses of transcriptome profiles of mouse brain tissue after whole-body irradiation showed that low-dose exposures (10 cGy) induced genes not affected by high-dose radiation (2 Gy) and that low-dose genes were associated with unique pathways and functions. The low-dose response had two major components: pathways that are consistently seen across tissues and pathways that were specific for brain tissue. Low-dose genes clustered into a saturated network (P < 10−53) containing mostly down-regulated genes involving ion channels, long-term potentiation and depression, vascular damage, etc. We identified nine neural signaling pathways that showed a high degree of concordance in their transcriptional response in mouse brain tissue after low-dose irradiation, in the aging human brain (unirradiated), and in brain tissue from patients with Alzheimer's disease. Mice exposed to high-dose radiation did not show these effects and associations. Our findings indicate that the molecular response of the mouse brain within a few hours after low-dose irradiation involves the down-regulation of neural pathways associated with cognitive dysfunctions that are also down-regulated in normal human aging and Alzheimer's disease.