BACKGROUND: Proteins involved in the DNA damage response accumulate as microscopically-visible nuclear foci on the chromatin flanking DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). As growth of ionizing radiation (IR)-induced foci amplifies the ATM-dependent DNA damage signal, the formation of discrete foci plays a crucial role in cell cycle checkpoint activation, especially in cells exposed to lower doses of IR. However, there is no quantitative parameter for the foci which considers both the number and their size. Therefore, we have developed a novel parameter for DNA damage signal based on the image analysis of the foci and quantified the amount of the signal sufficient for G2 arrest.<br /><br />RESULTS: The parameter that we have developed here was designated as SOID. SOID is an abbreviation of Sum Of Integrated Density, which represents the sum of fluorescence of each focus within one nucleus. The SOID was calculated for individual nucleus as the sum of (area (total pixel numbers) of each focus) x (mean fluorescence intensity per pixel of each focus). Therefore, the SOID accounts for the number, size, and fluorescence density of IR-induced foci, and the parameter reflects the flux of DNA damage signal much more accurately than foci number. Using very low doses of X-rays, we performed a "two-way" comparison of SOID of Ser139-phosphorylated histone H2AX foci between G2-arrested cells and mitosis-progressing cells, and between mitosis-progressing cells in the presence or absence of ATM or Chk1/2 inhibitor, both of which abrogate IR-induced G2/M checkpoint. The analysis revealed that there was a threshold of DNA damage signal for G2 arrest, which was around 4000~5000 SOID. G2 cells with < 4000 SOID were neglected by G2/M checkpoint, and thus, the cells could progress to mitosis. Chromosome analysis revealed that the checkpoint-neglected and mitosis-progressing cells had approximately two chromatid breaks on average, indicating that 4000~5000 SOID was equivalent to a few DNA double strand breaks.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: We developed a novel parameter for quantitative analysis of DNA damage signal, and we determined the threshold of DNA damage signal for IR-induced G2 arrest, which was represented by 4000~5000 SOID. The present study emphasizes that not only the foci number but also the size of the foci must be taken into consideration for the proper quantification of DNA damage signal.
Ishikawa, A., Yamauchi, M., Suzuki, K., & Yamashita, S. (2010). Image-based quantitative determination of DNA damage signal reveals a threshold for G2 checkpoint activation in response to ionizing radiation. Genome Integrity, 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/2041-9414-1-10