Increased Mammogram-Induced DNA Damage in Mammary Epithelial Cells Aged In Vitro

Laia Hernández, Mariona Terradas, Marta Martín, Purificación Feijoo, David Soler, Laura Tusell, Anna Genescà

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Concerned about the risks of mammography screening in the adult population, we analyzed the ability of human mammary epithelial cells to cope with mammogram-induced DNA damage. Our study shows that an X-ray dose of 20 mGy, which is the standard dose received by the breast surface per two-view mammogram X-ray exploration, induces increased frequencies of DNA double-strand breaks to in vitro aged-but not to young-human mammary epithelial cells. We provide evidence that aged epithelial breast cells are more radiosensitive than younger ones. Our studies point to an inefficient damage response of aged cells to low-dose radiation, this being due to both delayed and incomplete mobilization of repair proteins to DNA strand breaks. This inefficient damage response is translated into an important delay in double-strand break disappearance and consequent accumulation of unrepaired DNA breaks. The result of this is a significant increase in micronuclei frequency in the in vitro aged mammary epithelial cells exposed to doses equivalent to a single mammogram X-ray exploration. Since our experiments were carried out in primary epithelial cell cultures in which cells age at the same time as they undergo replication-dependent telomere shortening, we needed to determine the contribution of these two factors to their phenotype. In this paper, we report that the exogenous expression of human telomerase retrotranscriptase in late population doubling epithelial cells does not rescue its delayed repair phenotype. Therefore, retarded DNA break repair is a direct consequence of cellular aging itself, rather than a consequence of the presence of dysfunctional telomeres. Our findings of long-lasting double strand breaks and incomplete DNA break repair in the in vitro aged epithelial cells are in line with the increased carcinogenic risks of radiation exposures at older ages revealed by epidemiologic studies. © 2013 Hernández et al.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere63052
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2013

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