Nucleosides, especially pyrimidines modified in the C5-position, can act as radiosensitizers via a mechanism that involves their enzymatic triphosphorylation, incorporation into DNA, and a subsequent dissociative electron attachment (DEA) process. In this paper, we report 5-iodo-4-thio-2′-deoxyuridine (ISdU) as a compound that can effectively lead to ionizing radiation (IR)-induced cellular death, which is proven by a clonogenic assay. The test revealed that the survival of cells, pre-treated with 10 or 100 µM solution of ISdU and exposed to 0.5 Gy of IR, was reduced from 78.4% (for non-treated culture) to 67.7% and to 59.8%, respectively. For a somewhat higher dose of 1 Gy, the surviving fraction was reduced from 68.2% to 54.9% and to 40.8% for incubation with 10 or 100 µM ISdU, respectively. The cytometric analysis of histone H2A.X phosphorylation showed that the radiosensitizing effect of ISdU was associated, at least in part, with the formation of double-strand breaks. Moreover, the cytotoxic test against the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line and human dermal fibroblasts (HDFa line) confirmed low cytotoxic activity of ISdU. Based on the results of steady state radiolysis of ISdU with a dose of 140 Gy and quantum chemical calculations explaining the origin of the MS detected radioproducts, the molecular mechanism of sensitization by ISdU was proposed. In conclusion, we found ISdU to be a potential radiosensitizer that could improve anticancer radiotherapy.
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