Although bone marrow aplasia has been considered for the past decades as the major contributor of radiation-induced blood disorders, cytopenias alone are insufficient to explain differences in the prevalence of bleeding. In this study, the minipig was used as a novel preclinical model of hematopoietic acute radiation syndrome to assess if factors other than platelet counts correlated with bleeding and survival. We sought to determine whether radiation affected the insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) pathway, a growth hormone with cardiovascular and radioprotective features. Gottingen and Sinclair minipigs were exposed to ionizing radiation at hematopoietic doses. The smaller Gottingen minipig strain was more sensitive to radiation; differences in IGF-1 levels were minimal, suggesting that increased sensitivity could depend on weak response to the hormone. Radiation caused IGF-1 selective resistance by inhibiting the anti-inflammatory anti-oxidative stress IRS/PI3K/Akt but not the pro-inflammatory MAPK kinase pathway, shifting IGF-1 signaling towards a pro-oxidant, pro-inflammatory environment. Selective IGF-1 resistance associated with hemorrhages in the heart, poor prognosis, increase in C-reactive protein and NADPH oxidase 2, uncoupling of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) synthesis and imbalance between the vasodilator NO and the vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 molecules. Selective IGF-1 resistance is a novel mechanism of radiation injury, associated with a vicious cycle amplifying reactive oxygen species-induced damage, inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. In the presence of thrombocytopenia, selective inhibition of IGF-1 cardioprotective function may contribute to the development of hemostatic disorders. This finding may be particularly relevant for individuals with low IGF-1 activity, such as the elderly or those with cardiometabolic dysfunctions.
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Vol. 190 • No. 2