Effects of Gamma and Electron Radiation on the Structural Integrity of Organic Molecules and Macromolecular Biomarkers Measured by Microarray Immunoassays and Their Astrobiological Implications

Yolanda Blanco, Graciela de Diego-Castilla, Daniel Viúdez-Moreiras, Erika Cavalcante-Silva, José Antonio Rodríguez-Manfredi, Alfonso F. Davila, Christopher P. McKay, and Victor Parro. 2018. Effects of Gamma and Electron Radiation on the Structural Integrity of Organic Molecules and Macromolecular Biomarkers Measured by Microarray Immunoassays and Their Astrobiological Implications. Astrobiology 18, 12, 1497-1516, DOI: 10.1089/ast.2016.1645

High-energy ionizing radiation in the form of solar energetic particles and galactic cosmic rays is pervasive on the surface of planetary bodies with thin atmospheres or in space facilities for humans, and it may seriously affect the chemistry and the structure of organic and biological material. We used fluorescent microarray immunoassays to assess how different doses of electron and gamma radiations affect the stability of target compounds such as biological polymers and small molecules (haptens) conjugated to large proteins. The radiation effect was monitored by measuring the loss in the immunoidentification of the target due to an impaired ability of the antibodies for binding their corresponding irradiated and damaged epitopes (the part of the target molecule to which antibodies bind). Exposure to electron radiation alone was more damaging at low doses (1 kGy) than exposure to gamma radiation alone, but this effect was reversed at the highest radiation dose (500 kGy). Differences in the dose-effect immunoidentification patterns suggested that the amount (dose) and not the type of radiation was the main factor for the cumulative damage on the majority of the assayed molecules. Molecules irradiated with both types of radiation showed a response similar to that of the individual treatments at increasing radiation doses, although the pattern obtained with electrons only was the most similar. The calculated radiolysis constant did not show a unique pattern; it rather suggested a different behavior perhaps associated with the unique structure of each molecule. Although not strictly comparable with extraterrestrial conditions because the irradiations were performed under air and at room temperature, our results may contribute to understanding the effects of ionizing radiation on complex molecules and the search for biomarkers through bioaffinity-based systems in planetary exploration.

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