We have previously shown that the anti-malarial agent chloroquine can abrogate the lethal cellular effects of low dose-rate (LDR) radiation in vitro, most likely by activating the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) protein. Here, we demonstrate that chloroquine treatment also protects against lethal doses of LDR radiation in vivo.
Methods and Materials
C57BL/6 mice were irradiated with total of 12.8 Gy delivered at 9.4 cGy/hr. ATM null mice from the same background were used to determine the influence of ATM. Chloroquine was administered by two intraperitoneal injections of 59.4 μg per 17 g of body weight, 24 hrs and 4 hrs before irradiation. Bone marrow cells isolated from tibia, fibula and vertebral bones were transplanted into lethally irradiated CD45 congenic recipient mice by retro orbital injection. Chimerism was assessed by flow cytometry. In vitro methyl cellulose colony forming assay of whole bone marrow cells as well as FACS analysis of lineage depleted cells was used to assess the effect of chloroquine on progenitor cells.
Mice pretreated with chloroquine prior to radiation exhibited a significantly higher survival rate compared to mice treated with radiation alone (80 vs.31 percent, p=0.0026). Chloroquine administration prior to radiation did not impact the survival of ATM null mice (p=0.86). Chloroquine also had a significant effect on the early engraftment of bone marrow cells from the irradiated donor mice 6 weeks after the transplantation (4.2 percent vs. 0.4 percent, p=0.015).
Chloroquine administration prior to radiation had a significant effect on the survival of normal but not ATM null mice strongly suggesting that the in vivo effect like the in vitro effect is also ATM dependent. Chloroquine improved the early engraftment of bone marrow cells from LDR irradiated mice, presumably by protecting the progenitor cells from radiation injury. Chloroquine thus could serve as a very useful drug for protection against the harmful effects of LDR radiation.