The study demonstrates that basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) serves as an inducer of radiation damage repair in bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC). Radiation dose-survival curves were generated with plateau-phase BAEC using culture dishes precoated with HR9-bFGF/extracellular matrix (ECM) for the postradiation colony formation assay. This natural basement membrane-like ECM is enriched with ECM-bound bFGF. Under these conditions the cells exhibited increased repair of radiation damage as compared to cells plated on top of the bFGF-free isotype of this extracellular matrix (the HR9/ECM). While the slopes of the curves did not differ significantly (Do 107 ± 6.8 cGy on the HR9/ECM, compared to 112 ± 1.3 cGy on the HR9-bFGF/ECM), there was a nearly complete elimination of the threshold shoulder in the curves generated on the bFGF-free HR9/ECM (Dq 29 ± 19 cGy, compared to 174 ± 22 cGy on the HR9-bFGF/ECM; P < 0.05). Delayed plating experiments, in which the cells were irradiated under bFGF-free conditions (while adherent as contact-inhibited monolayers to the HR9/ECM in bFGF-free medium) and maintained after irradiation in the same culture for various periods of time, showed that the cells performed repair of potentially lethal damage (PLDR) and restored clonogenic ability, with a 24 h to immediate postradiation recovery ratio of 3.27. This expression of PLDR was inhibited by neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against bFGF, indicating that the irradiated cells secreted bFGF into their conditioned medium. Northern blot hybridization showed a 5.6-fold increase of the 3.7-kilobase species and a 4.7-fold increase of the 7.0-kilobase species of the bFGF-specific mRNA within 6 h after delivery of a single dose of 400 cGy. The data suggest that radiation induces a complete cycle of an autoregulated damage-repair pathway in BAEC, initiated by radiation-induced damage to cellular DNA and followed by stimulation of bFGF synthesis and its secretion into the medium. The newly synthesized bFGF stimulates the PLDR pathway, acting via an extracellular autocrine loop (inhibitable by specific anti-bFGF antibodies), leading to recovery of cells from radiation lesions and restoration of their clonogenic capacity.

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Supported by NIH Grant CA-52462.

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