Spatiotemporal characterization of ionizing radiation induced DNA damage foci and their relation to chromatin organization
DNA damage sensing proteins have been shown to localize to the sites of DSB within seconds to minutes following ionizing radiation (IR) exposure, resulting in the formation of microscopically visible nuclear domains referred to as radiation-induced foci (RIF). This review characterizes the spatio-temporal properties of RIF at physiological doses, minutes to hours following exposure to ionizing radiation, and it proposes a model describing RIF formation and resolution as a function of radiation quality and nuclear densities. Discussion is limited to RIF formed by three interrelated proteins ATM (Ataxia telangiectasia mutated), 53BP1 (p53 binding protein 1) and ?H2AX (phosphorylated variant histone H2AX). Early post-IR, we propose that RIF mark chromatin reorganization, leading to a local nuclear scaffold rigid enough to keep broken DNA from diffusing away, but open enough to allow the repair machinery. We review data indicating clear kinetic and physical differences between RIF emerging from dense and uncondensed regions of the nucleus. At later time post-IR, we propose that persistent RIF observed days following exposure to ionizing radiation are nuclear ?scars? marking permanent disruption of the chromatin architecture. When DNA damage is resolved, such chromatin modifications should not necessarily lead to growth arrest and it has been shown that persistent RIF can replicate during mitosis. Thus, heritable persistent RIF spanning over tens of Mbp may affect the transcriptome of a large progeny of cells. This opens the door for a non DNA mutation-based mechanism of radiation-induced phenotypes.