Radiation induces acute alterations in neuronal function.
Wu PH., Coultrap S., Pinnix C., Davies KD., Tailor R., Ang KK., Browning MD., Grosshans DR.
Every year, nearly 200,000 patients undergo radiation for brain tumors. For both patients and caregivers the most distressing adverse effect is impaired cognition. Efforts to protect against this debilitating effect have suffered from inadequate understanding of the cellular mechanisms of radiation damage. In the past it was accepted that radiation-induced normal tissue injury resulted from a progressive reduction in the survival of clonogenic cells. Moreover, because radiation-induced brain dysfunction is believed to evolve over months to years, most studies have focused on late changes in brain parenchyma. However, clinically, acute changes in cognition are also observed. Because neurons are fully differentiated post-mitotic cells, little information exists on the acute effects of radiation on synaptic function. The purpose of our study was to assess the potential acute effects of radiation on neuronal function utilizing ex vivo hippocampal brain slices. The cellular localization and functional status of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors was identified by immunoblotting. Electrophysiological recordings were obtained both for populations of neuronal cells and individual neurons. In the dentate gyrus region of isolated ex vivo slices, radiation led to early decreases in tyrosine phosphorylation and removal of excitatory N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) from the cell surface while simultaneously increasing the surface expression of inhibitory gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors (GABA(A)Rs). These alterations in cellular localization corresponded with altered synaptic responses and inhibition of long-term potentiation. The non-competitive NMDAR antagonist memantine blocked these radiation-induced alterations in cellular distribution. These findings demonstrate acute effects of radiation on neuronal cells within isolated brain slices and open new avenues for study.