Langen B, Vorontsov E, Spetz J, Swanpalmer J, Sihlbom C, Helou K, Forssell-Aronsson E
Sci Rep 12 (1) 7000 [2022-04-29; online 2022-04-29]
Molecular biomarkers of ionizing radiation (IR) exposure are a promising new tool in various disciplines: they can give necessary information for adaptive treatment planning in cancer radiotherapy, enable risk projection for radiation-induced survivorship diseases, or facilitate triage and intervention in radiation hazard events. However, radiation biomarker discovery has not yet resolved the most basic features of personalized medicine: age and sex. To overcome this critical bias in biomarker identification, we quantitated age and sex effects and assessed their relevance in the radiation response across the blood proteome. We used high-throughput mass spectrometry on blood plasma collected 24 h after 0.5 Gy total body irradiation (15 MV nominal photon energy) from male and female C57BL/6 N mice at juvenile (7-weeks-old) or adult (18-weeks-old) age. We also assessed sex and strain effects using juvenile male and female BALB/c nude mice. We showed that age and sex created significant effects in the proteomic response regarding both extent and functional quality of IR-induced responses. Furthermore, we found that age and sex effects appeared non-linear and were often end-point specific. Overall, age contributed more to differences in the proteomic response than sex, most notably in immune responses, oxidative stress, and apoptotic cell death. Interestingly, sex effects were pronounced for DNA damage and repair pathways and associated cellular outcome (pro-survival vs. pro-apoptotic). Only one protein (AHSP) was identified as a potential general biomarker candidate across age and sex, while GMNN, REG3B, and SNCA indicated some response similarity across age. This low yield advocated that unisex or uniage biomarker screening approaches are not feasible. In conclusion, age- and sex-specific screening approaches should be implemented as standard protocol to ensure robustness and diagnostic power of biomarker candidates. Bias-free molecular biomarkers are a necessary progression towards personalized medicine and integral for advanced adaptive cancer radiotherapy and risk assessment.