The impact of ionizing radiation on placental trophoblasts

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Introduction Exposure to low-dose radiation is widespread and attributable to natural sources. However, occupational, medical, accidental, and terrorist-related exposures remain a significant threat. Information on radiation injury to the feto-placental unit is scant and largely observational. We hypothesized that radiation causes trophoblast injury, and alters the expression of injury-related transcripts in vitro or in vivo, thus affecting fetal growth. Methods Primary human trophoblasts (PHTs), BeWo or NCCIT cells were irradiated in vitro, and cell number and viability were determined. Pregnant C57Bl/6HNsd mice were externally irradiated on E13.5, and placentas examined on E17.5. RNA expression was analyzed using microarrays and RT-qPCR. The experiments were repeated in the presence of the gramicidin S (GS)-derived nitroxide JP4-039, used to mitigate radiation-induced cell injury. Results We found that survival of in vitro-irradiated PHT cell was better than that of irradiated BeWo trophoblast cell line or the radiosensitive NCCIT mixed germ cell tumor line. Radiation altered the expression of several trophoblast genes, with a most dramatic effect on CDKN1A (p21, CIP1). Mice exposed to radiation at E13.5 exhibited a 25% reduction in mean weight by E17.5, and a 9% reduction in placental weight, which was associated with relatively small changes in placental gene expression. JP4-039 had a minimal effect on feto-placental growth or on gene expression in irradiated PHT cells or mouse placenta. Discussion and conclusion While radiation affects placental trophoblasts, the established placenta is fairly resistant to radiation, and changes in this tissue may not fully account for fetal growth restriction induced by ionizing radiation. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.




Kanter, D. J., O’Brien, M. B., Shi, X. H., Chu, T., Mishima, T., Beriwal, S., … Sadovsky, Y. (2014). The impact of ionizing radiation on placental trophoblasts. Placenta, 35(2), 85–91.

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