We have reported previously that a population near the Semipalatinsk nuclear explosion test site had significantly increased minisatellite mutations (MM), suggesting increased germ-line mutation rates from the exposure in 3 generations. We hypothesize that the MM can be used as a surrogate biomarker for functional genetic alterations, e.g. gene mutations and chromosome aberrations. Therefore, we have investigated the influence of polymorphisms in genes on the expression of MM in the same two populations (247 and 172 individuals, for exposed and control, respectively, in 3 generations), and their relationships with radiation exposure. We have chosen the analyses of three polymorphic DNA - repair genes (XRCC1, XRCC1 and XRCC3) and two xenobiotic detoxification genes (GSTT1 and GSTM1).
The variant genes were retained in the three generations in association with their useful function. However, the MM frequencies in the exposed were not consistently and significantly higher than those in the control populations, radiation exposure may therefore not have been the only cause for the high MM frequency among the exposed individuals. Since we studied three generations of citizens, the over- and under-representations of variant genes in the exposed population indicate their persistence and elimination, respectively, from the exposed individuals, suggesting their functional influence on survivability. The latter observation also indicates the complexity of gene and environmental interactions, e.g. the GSTM1 null was significantly over-represented in the exposed population.