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ABSTRACT

Radiation therapy causes varying degrees of damage to biological systems. Many groups are investigating the mechanism underlying radiation-induced cellular damage but there are limited therapeutic solutions for affected patients. Recent studies show that substance P (SP) participates in cell proliferation. In the present study, we characterized the mechanism underlying SP-induced cellular signaling in radiation-induced damage of the intestine. Exposure of Caco-2 cells to SP increases cell proliferation and Erk phosphorylation in a time- and dose-dependent manner. The proliferation of cells exposed to γ-irradiation is also stimulated by exposure to SP, a phenomenon that may result from inhibition of apoptosis because SP activates Akt and inhibits the cleavage of caspase-3. The effect of SP on cell proliferation and protection was confirmed by investigations in mice. Proliferating cell nuclear antigen staining shows that cell proliferation in radiation-damaged mouse intestine increases significantly upon exposure to SP. Furthermore, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-fluorescein nick end labeling assay reveals fewer cells stained in SP-treated mice compared with untreated controls. These findings show the potential for SP-induced acceleration of intestinal wound healing and reveal that the mechanism underlying this process involves activation of Erk and Akt and inhibition of caspase-3 cleavage.