High-dose γ-irradiation enhances the expression of a transgene controlled by the immediate-early CMV promoter in stably transfected tumor cells

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γ-irradiation is commonly used to inactivate whole-cell anticancer vaccines containing viable tumor cells. To evaluate the effect of γ-irradiation on transgene expression in tumor cells, human and mouse cell lines were stably transfected with constructs expressing the granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) or green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene under the control of the immediate-early CMV promoter. Irradiation of cells at 20–100 Gy caused a loss of proliferation capacity and gradual cell death, with the survival depending on the irradiation dose. G2/M cells accumulated in irradiated cultures, while the portion of S-phase cells was reduced. Surviving cells displayed activation of β-galactosidase and morphological changes associated with cell senescence. Mitochondrial dehydrogenase activity did not change with the irradiation dose. Irradiated cells retained transgene expression. Moreover, the amount of secreted GM-CSF and GFP production significantly increased after γ-irradiation, up to tenfold in cells exposed to 100 Gy. Transgene expression increased gradually and positively correlated with the total irradiation dose. The results demonstrate that γ-irradiation at 100 Gy is optimal for whole-cell anticancer vaccine inactivation.

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