The purpose of this paper is to characterize the apoptotic response of various subpopulations of human white blood cells after in vitro exposure to ionizing radiation using the modified neutral comet assay (MNCA). White blood cells, isolated from human whole blood, were fractionated into granulocytes and mononuclear cells which were further separated into B-cells, natural killer (NK) cells, and CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells. The separated fractions were exposed to low doses of X-rays and then MNCA was used to measure the apoptotic fraction (AF) at different time points in irradiated and unirradiated aliquots of sorted cultures. The spontaneous AF in unirradiated control cells was the most critical determinant of whether an apoptotic response could be detected in irradiated cells. When cultured in isolation granulocytes and B-cells had the highest background AF, with NK cells having the next highest. CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells had a low, stable, spontaneous AF which gave them the highest signal-to-noise ratio. Although B-cells demonstrated the highest radiation-induced apoptotic response to 1Gy of X-rays, CD8+ T-cells were the most radiation-responsive lymphocytes due to their low spontaneous AF. By generating dose response curves for CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells, the sensitivity of the MNCA for detecting apoptosis in these two cell types was also examined.

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Keywords Apoptosis, Human lymphocytes, Ionizing radiation
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Journal Mutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Wilkins, R.C, Wilkinson, D. (D.), Maharaj, H.P. (H. P.), Bellier, P.V. (P. V.), Cybulski, M.B. (M. B.), & McLean, J.R.N. (J. R.N.). (2001). Differential apoptotic response to ionizing radiation in subpopulations of human white blood cells. Mutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, 513(1-2), 27–36. doi:10.1016/S1383-5718(01)00290-X