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Characteristic aluminum K (A1(K)) (energy of 1.5 ke(V)) and copper L (Cu(L)) (energy of ~0.96 keV) ultrasoft X rays have been used to investigate the effectiveness of the numerous low-energy secondary electrons produced by low-linear energy transfer (LET) ionizing radiation. Cellular inactivation and induction and rejoining of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in Chinese hamster V79-4 cells irradiated as monolayers with these ultrasoft X radiations have been studied under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. The mean cell thickness, determined by confocal laser scanning fluorescence microscopy, was used to calculate the mean dose to the nucleus of the irradiated cells. Relative to 60Co γ rays, the relative biological effectiveness (RBE) for cellular inactivation at 10% survival is 1.7 ± 0.1 and 2.3 ± 0.3 for A1(K) and Cu(L) ultrasoft X rays, respectively. The RBE values for induction of DSBs of 2.5 ± 0.2 and 3.0 ± 0.3 for A1(K) and Cu(L) X rays, respectively, were determined after irradiation at 277 K using the technique of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Induction of DSBs is linearly dependent on dose. Oxygen enhancement ratios of 1.9 and 2.1 for cellular inactivation and DSB induction, respectively, were obtained with A1(K) X rays. These values are less than those for 60Co γ radiation. The repair kinetics for rejoining of DSBs after a dose of 15 Gy is similar for both X- ray energies and 60Co γ rays with a first half-life of 18-22 ± 5 min. From these studies, it is suggested that induction of DSBs by low-LET radiations such as 60Co γ rays reflects clustered damage produced predominantly by low-energy electron 'track ends,' which represent about 30% of the total dose.

Original publication




Journal article


Radiation Research

Publication Date





317 - 324