Increased dietary iron and radiation in rats promote oxidative stress, induce localized and systemic immune system responses, and alter colon mucosal environment.
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Astronauts are exposed to increased body iron stores and radiation, both of which can cause oxidative damage leading to negative health effects. The purpose of this study was to investigate combined effects of high dietary iron (650 mg/kg diet) and radiation exposure (0.375 Gy cesium-137 every other day for 16 d) on markers of oxidative stress, immune system function, and colon mucosal environment in male Sprague-Dawley rats (n=8/group). Control rats consumed adequate iron (45 mg/kg diet) and were not irradiated. Combined treatments increased liver glutathione peroxidase, serum catalase, and colon myeloperoxidase while decreasing total fecal short-chain fatty acid concentrations. The high-iron diet alone increased leukocyte count. Radiation decreased the T-cell CD4:CD8 ratio. Plasma iron was negatively correlated with cytokine production in activated monocytes. Genes involved in colon microbial signaling, immune response, and injury repair were altered by radiation. Genes involved with injury repair and pathogen recognition changed with dietary iron. These data demonstrate that dietary iron and radiation, alone and combined, contribute to oxidative stress that is related to immune system alterations in circulation and the colon. The model presented may help us better understand the changes to these systems that have been identified among astronauts.