Monday, April 30, 2018

Radioactive Legacy: Transgenerational Transmission of Radiation-Induced Genetic Mutations

Recently Anders Moller, a very well respected and cited evolutionary biologist, was interviewed by Sputnik about the lasting legacy of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. Here is an excerpt from that interview with relevant citations added of published research in this arena:
‘Negative effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima are striking’ – Professor. (2018, April 27). Sputnik,
Sputnik: What can you say about the degree of mutations and how long does this usually last for post this kind of catastrophe?
•Anders Moller: Levels of mutations in Chernobyl and the neighborhood are so great that it exceeds anything else recorded in the literature, so it is really significant. What's characteristic of mutations is that they typically damage sperm cells and eggs and thereby affect newborns and even kill embryos, and these mutations, if they are affecting sperm or eggs, can be transmitted from one generation to the next. Natal effects as seen now can also appear in the next generation and in the following generations, so there is no end of these events.

 Research supporting this assertion include the following:
Laila Omar-Nazir, Xiaopei Shi, Anders Moller, Timothy Mousseau, Soohyun Byun, Samuel Hancock, Colin Seymour, Carmel Mothersill, (2018) Long-term effects of ionizing radiation after the Chernobyl accident: Possible contribution of historic dose. Environmental Research,165, 55-62, (

Abstract: The impact of the Chernobyl NPP accident on the environment is documented to be greater than expected, with higher mutation rates than expected at the current, chronic low dose rate. 
In this paper we suggest that the historic acute exposure and resulting non-targeted effects (NTE) such as delayed mutations and genomic instability could account at least in part for currently measured mutation rates and provide an initial test of this concept. 

Data from Møller and Mousseau on the phenotypic mutation rates of Chernobyl birds 9–11 generations post the Chernobyl accident were used and the reconstructed dose response for mutations was compared with delayed reproductive death dose responses (as a measure of genomic instability) in cell cultures exposed to a similar range of doses. 

The dose to birds present during the Chernobyl NPP accident was reconstructed through the external pathway due to Cs-137 with an estimate of the uncertainty associated with such reconstruction. The percentage of Chernobyl birds several generations after the accident without mutations followed the general shape of the clonogenic survival percentage of the progeny of irradiated cells, and it plateaued at low doses. This is the expected result if NTE of radiation are involved. 

We suggest therefore, that NTE induced by the historic dose may play a role in generating mutations in progeny many generations following the initial disaster.

Keywords: Chernobyl birds; Low dose effects of radiation; Non-targeted effects; Radiation-induced genomic instability; Radiation induced lethal mutations


A. Moller & T. Mousseau (2013) ‘The Effects of Natural Variation in Background Radioactivity on Humans, Animals and Other Organisms’, Biological Reviews, 88.1, 226-254, p. 249.

A. Moller and T. Mousseau (2006) ‘Biological Consequences of Chernobyl: 20 Years After the Disaster’, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 21, 200-2007.

A. Moller, I. Nishiumi, H. Suzuki, K. Ueda, and T. Mousseau (2013) ‘Differences in Effects of Radiation of Animals in Fukushima and Chernobyl’, Ecological Indicators, 24, 75-81, p. 80. 


Majia's Blog: Chromosome 16: Linked to Human Evolution, Autism ...

burdening the species with genetic mutations: we are ...  

Majia's Blog: Mutations: Germ Line Mosaicism

Majia's Blog: Ionizing Radiation and Germ Cell Damage: Link to ...

Majia's Blog: Mutations: Germ Line Mosaicism

Majia's Blog: Living in a Radiation Contaminated Zone