Cells without intact mitochondrial DNA have been shown to lack the bystander effect, which is an energy-dependent process. We hypothesized that cells harboring mutations in mitochondrial genes responsible for ATP synthesis would show a decreased bystander effect compared to normal cells. Radiation-induced bystander effects were analyzed in two normal and four mitochondrial mutant human lymphoblastoid cells. Medium from previously irradiated cells (conditioned medium) was transferred to unirradiated cells from the respective cell lines and evaluated for the bystander effect using the cytokinesis-block micronucleus assay. Unlike normal cells that were used as a control, mitochondrial mutant cells neither generated nor responded to the bystander signals. The bystander effect was inhibited in normal cells by adding the mitochondrial inhibitors rotenone and oligomycin to the culture medium. Time-controlled blocking of the bystander effect by inhibitors was found to occur either for prolonged exposure to the inhibitor prior to irradiation with an immediate and subsequent removal of the inhibitors or immediate post-application of the inhibitor. Adding the inhibitors just prior to irradiation and removing them immediately after irradiation was uneventful. Fully functional mitochondrial metabolic capability may therefore be essential for the bystander effect.
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Vol. 175 • No. 2