The radioprotective agent amifostine is a free radical scavenger that can protect cells from the damaging effects of ionising radiation when administered prior to radiation exposure. However, amifostine has also been shown to protect cells from chromosomal mutations when administered after radiation exposure. As apoptosis is a common mechanism by which cells with mutations are removed from the cell population, we investigated whether amifostine stimulates apoptosis when administered after radiation exposure. We chose to study a relatively low dose which is the maximum radiation dose for radiation emergency workers (0.25 Gy) and a high dose relevant to radiotherapy exposures (6 Gy). Mice were administered 400 mg/kg amifostine 30 min before, or 3 h after, whole-body irradiation with 0.25 or 6 Gy X-rays and apoptosis was analysed 3 or 7 h later in spleen and bone marrow. We observed a significant increase in radiation-induced apoptosis in the spleen of mice when amifostine was administered before or after 0.25 Gy X-rays. In contrast, when a high dose of radiation was used (6 Gy), amifostine caused a reduction in radiation-induced apoptosis 3 h post-irradiation in spleen and bone marrow similar to previously published studies. This is the first study to investigate the effect of amifostine on radiation-induced apoptosis at a relatively low radiation dose and the first to demonstrate that while amifostine can reduce apoptosis from high doses of radiation, it does not mediate the same effect in response to low-dose exposures. These results suggest that there may be a dose threshold at which amifostine protects from radiation-induced apoptosis and highlight the importance of examining a range of radiation doses and timepoints.
- Free radical scavengers
- Low-dose X-radiation