Oncology reports

Carbon ions and X‑rays induce pro‑inflammatory effects in 3D oral mucosa models with and without PBMCs.

PMID 25174410


Oral mucositis is a severe complication of radiotherapy. Hence, it may constitute a serious medical safety risk for astronauts during extended space flights, such as missions to Mars, during which they are exposed to heavy-ion irradiation. For risk assessment of developing radiation-induced mucositis, a three-dimensional (3D) organotypic oral mucosa model was irradiated with 12C heavy ions or X‑rays. The present study focused mainly on early radiation‑induced effects, such as the activation of nuclear factor κB (NFκB) and the expression or release of pro-inflammatory marker molecules. The 3D oral mucosa models with or without peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were irradiated with X‑rays or 12C heavy ions followed by snap freezing. Subsequently, cryosections were derived from the specimens, which were immunostained for analysis of compactness, DNA double strand breaks (DSB) and activation of NFκB. Radiation‑induced release of interleukin 6 (IL6) and interleukin 8 (IL8) was quantified by ELISA. Quantification of the DNA damage in irradiated mucosa models revealed distinctly more DSB after heavy-ion irradiation compared to X‑rays at definite time points, suggesting a higher gene toxicity of heavy ions. NFκB activation was observed after treatment with X‑rays or 12C particles. ELISA analyses showed significantly higher IL6 and IL8 levels after irradiation with X‑rays and 12C particles compared to non-irradiated controls, whereas co‑cultures including PBMCs released 2 to 3-fold higher interleukin concentrations compared to mucosa models without PBMCs. In this study, we demonstrated that several pro-inflammatory markers are induced by X‑rays and heavy-ion irradiation within an oral mucosa model. This suggests that oral mucositis indeed poses a risk for astronauts on extended space flights.