Exposure to ionizing radiation (IR) is inevitable to humans in real-life scenarios; the hazards of IR primarily stem from its mutagenic, carcinogenic, and cell killing ability. For many decades, extensive research has been conducted on the human cell responses to IR delivered at a low dose/low dose (LD) rate. These studies have shown that the molecular-, cellular-, and tissue-level responses are different after low doses of IR (LDIR) compared to those observed after a short-term high-dose IR exposure (HDIR). With the advent of high-throughput technologies in the late 1990s, such as DNA microarrays, changes in gene expression have also been found to be ubiquitous after LDIR. Very limited subset of genes has been shown to be consistently up-regulated by LDIR, including CDKN1A
. Further research on the biological effects and mechanisms induced by IR in human cells demonstrated that the molecular and cellular processes, including transcriptional alterations, activated by LDIR are often related to protective responses and, sometimes, hormesis. Following LDIR, some distinct responses were observed, these included bystander effects, and adaptive responses. Changes in gene expression, not only at the level of mRNA, but also miRNA, have been found to crucially underlie these effects having implications for radiation protection purposes.
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