Candidate protein biomarkers as rapid indicators of radiation exposure

Simon Horn*, Kai Rothkamm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


For large scale exposures of the human population to ionising radiation, there is a need for cost-effective high throughput assessment of radiation exposure levels from biological samples to allow triage decisions to be made. Here we assess the usefulness of H2AX phosphorylation, 53BP1 foci formation, p53 induction and caspase activation as tools for biological dosimetry. Peripheral blood lymphocytes from healthy donors were isolated and exposed to X-rays. Cells were fixed, permeabilised and then stained with primary antibodies for γ-H2AX and/or 53BP1, p53 or FLICA caspase detection kit followed by fluorescently tagged secondary antibodies. Cell nuclei were DAPI or propidium iodide counterstained for microscopy or cytometry respectively. Average γ-H2AX/53BP1 foci numbers and γ-H2AX fluorescence intensities increased with dose. Foci loss occurred over a period of 24 h post exposure with foci levels remaining above baseline levels for at least 24 h following exposure to 0.5 Gy or more of X-rays. p53 levels increased with dose and over time, peaking at 48 h post exposure. Apoptotic cells were highlighted with greatly increased levels of activated caspases. A single dose of 4 Gy increased the percentage of apoptotic lymphocytes to over 60% at 96 h post exposure. The finding that the biomarkers analysed here have different temporal dynamics following radiation exposure suggests that they could be combined to enable detection of exposures over a period of hours to several days after a radiation incident to help facilitate rapid triage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-906
Number of pages4
JournalRadiation Measurements
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support received from the UK Health Protection Agency for funding this work. The sponsor had no involvement in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


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