Alpha-particle irradiation of cells damages not only the irradiated cells but also nontargeted bystander cells. It has been proposed that the bystander effect is caused by oxidants and free radicals generated by the radiation. Recent studies have shown that α1-microglobulin protects against cell damage caused by oxidants and free radicals. Using a novel experimental system that allows irradiation of 0.02% of a human hepatoma monolayer, leaving 99.98% as bystander cells, we investigated the influence of oxidative stress and the cell-protective effects of α1-microglobulin during α-particle irradiation. The results showed an increase in cell death in both irradiated cells and bystander cells. A significant increase in apoptosis, oxidation markers and expression of the stress response genes heme oxygenase 1, superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase 1, p21 and p53 were observed. Addition of α1-microglobulin reduced the amount of dead cells and inhibited apoptosis, formation of oxidation markers, and up-regulation of stress response genes. The results emphasize the role of oxidative stress in promoting bystander effects. Furthermore, the results suggest that α1-microglobulin protects nonirradiated cells by eliminating oxidants and free radicals generated by radiation and imply that α1-microglobulin can be used in radiation therapy of tumors to minimize damage to surrounding tissues.
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Vol. 174 • No. 5