Mathematical modeling predicts enhanced growth of X-ray irradiated pigmented fungi

Igor Shuryak, Ruth A. Bryan, Joshua D. Nosanchuk, Ekaterina Dadachova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Ionizing radiation is known for its cytotoxic and mutagenic properties. However, recent evidence suggests that chronic sublethal irradiation stimulates the growth of melanin-pigmented (melanized) fungi, supporting the hypothesis that interactions between melanin and ionizing photons generate energy useful for fungal growth, and/or regulate growthpromoting genes. There are no quantitative models of how fungal proliferation is affected by ionizing photon energy, dose rate, and presence versus absence of melanin on the same genetic background. Here we present such a model, which we test using experimental data on melanin-modulated radiation-induced proliferation enhancement in the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, exposed to two different peak energies (150 and 320 kVp) over a wide range of X-ray dose rates. Our analysis demonstrates that radiation-induced proliferation enhancement in C. neoformans behaves as a binary "on/off" phenomenon, which is triggered by dose rates ≤0.002 mGy/h, and stays in the "on" position. A competing dose rate-dependent growth inhibition becomes apparent at dose rates >5000 mGy/h. Proliferation enhancement of irradiated cells compared with unirradiated controls occurs at both X-ray peak energies, but its magnitude is modulated by X-ray peak energy and cell melanization. At dose rates <5000 mGy/h, both melanized and non-melanized cells exposed to 150 kVp X-rays, and non-melanized cells exposed to 320 kVp X-rays, all exhibit the same proliferation enhancement: on average, chronic irradiation stimulates each founder cell to produce 100 (95% CI: 83, 116) extra descendants over 48 hours. Interactions between melanin and 320 kVp X-rays result in a significant (2-tailed p-value = 4.8610-5) additional increase in the number of radiation-induced descendants per founder cell: by 55 (95% CI: 29, 81). These results show that both melanindependent and melanin-independent mechanisms are involved in radiation-induced fungal growth enhancement, and implicate direct and/or indirect interactions of melanin with high energy ionizing photons as an important pro-proliferative factor. Copyright:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere85561
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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