56Fe Irradiation Alters Spine Density and Dendritic Complexity in the Mouse Hippocampus

Antiño R. Allen, Jacob Raber, Ayanabha Chakraborti, Sourabh Sharma, John R. Fike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


A unique feature of the space radiation environment is the presence of high-energy charged particles, which can be significantly hazardous to space flight crews who are exposed during a mission. Health risks associated with high-LET radiation exposure include cognitive injury. The pathogenesis of this injury is unknown but may involve modifications to dendritic structure and/or alterations in dendritic spine density and morphology. In this study, 24 two-month-old C57BL6/J male mice were either whole-body irradiated with 0.5 Gy 56Fe (600 MeV/n; n = 12) or sham irradiated (n = 12). Three months postirradiation animals were tested for locomotor activity and habituation. After behavioral testing, animals were euthanized and the brains were flash frozen. Compared to sham-irradiated mice, irradiated mice moved less when first introduced to the environment, although they did recognize the environment when re-exposed to it one day later. Exposure to 56Fe radiation significantly compromised the dendritic architecture and reduced spine density throughout the hippocampal tri-synaptic network. To our knowledge, these data represents the first reported evidence that high-LET radiation has deleterious effects on mature neurons associated with hippocampal learning and memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-594
Number of pages9
JournalRadiation research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiation
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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