Ionizing radiation (IR) imposes risks to human health and the environment. IR at low doses and low dose rates has the potency to initiate carcinogenesis. Genotoxic environmental agents such as IR trigger a cascade of signal transduction pathways for cellular protection. In this study, using cDNA microarray technique, we monitored the gene expression profiles in lymphocytes derived from radiation-exposed individuals (radiation workers). Physical dosimetry records on these patients indicated that the absorbed dose ranged from 0.696 to 39.088 mSv. Gene expression analysis revealed statistically significant transcriptional changes in a total of 78 genes (21 up-regulated and 57 down-regulated) involved in several biological processes such as ubiquitin cycle (UHRF2 and PIAS1), DNA repair (LIG3, XPA, ERCC5, RAD52, DCLRE1C), cell cycle regulation/proliferation (RHOA, CABLES2, TGFB2, IL16), and stress response (GSTP1, PPP2R5A, DUSP22). Some of the genes that showed altered expression profiles in this study can be used as biomarkers for monitoring the chronic low level exposure in humans. Additionally, alterations in gene expression patterns observed in chronically exposed radiation workers reinforces the need for defining the effective radiation dose that causes immediate genetic damage as well as the long-term effects on genomic instability, including cancer.
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