Intestinal crypt clonogens: A new interpretation of radiation survival curve shape and clonogenic cell number

Stephen Roberts, J. H. Hendry, C. S. Potten

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Estimates of the clonogen content (number of microcolony-forming cells) of murine intestinal crypts using microcolony assays show an apparent dependence on the radiation dose used in the assay of clonogen content. Crypt radiation survival curves often show increased curvature beyond that expected on the basis of the conventional linear-quadratic model. A novel form of crypt survival curve shape is proposed based on two contributory mechanisms of crypt killing. Six previously published sets of microcolony data were re-analysed using a dual-kill model, where target cells are killed by two contributory mechanisms, each described by a linear-quadratic function of dose. The data were analysed as two series - high-dose rate and low-dose rate irradiation. The data were fitted to the models using direct maximization of a quasi-likelihood, explicitly allowing for overdispersion. The dual-kill model can reproduce both the apparent dose-dependence of the clonogen estimates and the high-dose curvature of the dose-response curves. For both series of data the model was a significantly better fit to the data than the standard linear-quadratic model, with no evidence of any systematic lack of fit. The parameters of the clonogenic cell component of the model are consistent with other studies that suggest a low clonogen number (somewhat less than five) per crypt. The model implies that there is a secondary mechanism decreasing clonogen survival, and hence increasing clonogen number estimates, at high doses. The mechanisms underlying the modification of the dose-response are unclear, and the implied mechanisms of, for example, slow growth, induced either directly in the surviving cells or indirectly through stromal injury or bystander effects are only speculative. Nevertheless, the model fits the data well, demonstrating that there is greater kill at high doses in these experimental series than would be expected from the conventional linear-quadratic model. This alternative model, or another model with similar behaviour, needs to be considered when analysing in detail and interpreting microcolony data as a function of dose. The implied low number of ≤ 5 of these regenerative and relatively radioresistant clonogenic cells is distinct from a similar number of much more radiosensitive precursor stem cells which undergo early apoptosis after doses around 1 Gy.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)215-231
    Number of pages16
    JournalCell Proliferation
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003


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