Scanning Microscopy


The cells of the external granular layer (EGL) of the developing cerebellum are known to be particularly sensitive to radiation. In the past, changes induced in this layer by irradiation have been referred to by non-specific terms such as "pyknotic cells" and the mode of cell death has been assumed to be necrosis. However, in published light micrographs of these dying cells, the appearance is suggestive of apoptosis, a distinctive mode of cell death which occurs spontaneously in normal adult and embryonic tissues and can also be triggered by certain pathological stimuli.

This light and transmission electron microscopic study of control and irradiated (7 h post-irradiation) rat cerebellum from 18 day fetuses and 5 day-old neonates showed that the cell death was effected by apoptosis. The apoptosis was markedly enhanced by x-irradiation and quantification of the cell death in the EGL of 5 day-old rats exposed to 4, 8, 25, 100, and 400 cGy x-irradiation demonstrated that there was a positive dose response relationship. The extent of cell death by apoptosis which was 0.2% in control, ranged from 0.8% after 4 cGy to 62.3% after 400cGy x-irradiation.

The recognition that cell death by apoptosis can be a major component of x-irradiation damage has important implications for radiobiological studies.

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