High and low dose radiation effects on mammary adenocarcinoma cells – an epigenetic connection

Lidia Luzhna1, Jody Filkowski1 and Olga Kovalchuk1

1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada


Olga Kovalchuk, email:

Keywords: apoptosis, quantitative ultrasound, cancer therapy, treatment response monitoring, personalized medicine

Received: January 15, 2016 Accepted: February 01, 2016 Published: March 10, 2016


The successful treatment of cancer, including breast cancer, depends largely on radiation therapy and proper diagnostics. The effect of ionizing radiation on cells and tissues depends on the radiation dose and energy level, but there is insufficient evidence concerning how tumor cells respond to the low and high doses of radiation that are often used in medical diagnostic and treatment modalities. The purpose of this study was to investigate radiation-induced gene expression changes in the MCF-7 breast adenocarcinoma cell line. Using microarray technology tools, we were able to screen the differential gene expressions profiles between various radiation doses applied to MCF-7 cells. Here, we report the substantial alteration in the expression level of genes after high-dose treatment. In contrast, no dramatic gene expression alterations were noticed after the application of low and medium doses of radiation. In response to a high radiation dose, MCF-7 cells exhibited down-regulation of biological pathways such as cell cycle, DNA replication, and DNA repair and activation of the p53 pathway. Similar dose-dependent responses were seen on the epigenetic level, which was tested by a microRNA expression analysis. MicroRNA analysis showed dose-dependent radiation-induced microRNA expression alterations that were associated with cell cycle arrest and cell death. An increased rate of apoptosis was determined by an Annexin V assay. The results of this study showed that high doses of radiation affect gene expression genetically and epigenetically, leading to alterations in cell cycle, DNA replication, and apoptosis.

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