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The aim of this study was to assess the relative influence of the linear energy transfer (LET) of alpha particles on the complexity of chromosome aberrations in the absence of significant other differences in track structure. To do this, we irradiated human hemopoietic stem cells (CD34+) with alpha particles of various incident LETs (110-152 keV/microm, with mean LETs through the cell of 119-182 keV/microm) at an equi-fluence of approximately one particle/cell and assayed for chromosome aberrations by mFISH. Based on a single harvest time to collect early-division mitotic cells, complex aberrations were observed at comparable frequencies irrespective of incident LET; however, when expressed as a proportion of the total exchanges detected, their occurrence was seen to increase with increasing LET. Cycle analysis to predict theoretical DNA double-strand break rejoining cycles was also carried out on all complex chromosome aberrations detected. By doing this we found that the majority of complex aberrations are formed in single non-reducible cycles that involve just two or three different chromosomes and three or four different breaks. Each non-reducible cycle is suggested to represent "an area" of finite size within the nucleus where double-strand break repair occurs. We suggest that the local density of damage induced and the proximity of independent repair areas within the interphase nucleus determine the complexity of aberrations resolved in metaphase. Overall, the most likely outcome of a single nuclear traversal of a single alpha particle in CD34+ cells is a single chromosome aberration per damaged cell. As the incident LET of the alpha particle increases, the likelihood of this aberration being classed as complex is greater.

Original publication




Journal article


Radiat Res

Publication Date





541 - 550


Alpha Particles, Antigens, CD34, Apoptosis, Bone Marrow Cells, Cell Cycle, Cells, Cultured, Chromosome Aberrations, Chromosomes, Human, Humans