Experimental exposure of naive bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) to the Chornobyl, Ukraine, environment: A Test of radioresistance

Brenda E. Rodgers, Jeffrey K. Wickliffe, Carleton J. Phillips, Ronald K. Chesser, Robert J. Baker

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Previous studies have demonstrated no difference in micronucleus (MN) frequencies between wild rodents chronically exposed to the environmental radiation contamination of the Chornobyl (Ukraine) exclusion zone and those inhabiting reference populations. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that a population of bank voles (Clethrionomys Glareolus) has developed radioresistance as a result of 14 years of chronic, low-dose radiation exposure. Naive voles were placed in environmental enclosures in the Red Forest region of the exclusion zone for 30 d. Blood samples were obtained at regular intervals, and the MN assay was used to assess chromosomal damage. Additionally, radionuclide uptake was monitored throughout the study, and dose was documented for each individual as well as for their offspring. Total dose for the voles experimentally exposed in this environment averaged 1.09 Gy (36.20 mGy d-1) for the 30-d study period. Our results indicate that exposure to radiation levels well above regulatory statutes did not result in an increased MN frequency. Furthermore, our results do not support the hypothesis that voles chronically exposed to these radiation levels have developed a genetic basis for radioresistance that is unique from that present in naive populations. The use of C. glareolus as a sentinel species for environmental studies of radiation contamination and the question of whether the MN assay is an appropriate endpoint for studies of low-dose, chronic radiation exposure are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1936-1941
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001


  • Chernobyl
  • Chornobyl
  • Clethrionomys sp
  • Micronucleus assay
  • Radiation


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