Parotid glands have a dysregulated immune response following radiation therapy

Jordan A. Gunning, Kristy E. Gilman, Tiffany M. Zúñiga, Richard J. Simpson, Kirsten H. Limesand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Head and neck cancer treatment often consists of surgical resection of the tumor followed by ionizing radiation (IR), which can damage surrounding tissues and cause adverse side effects. The underlying mechanisms of radiation-induced salivary gland dysfunction are not fully understood, and treatment options are scarce and ineffective. The wound healing process is a necessary response to tissue injury, and broadly consists of inflammatory, proliferative, and redifferentiation phases with immune cells playing key roles in all three phases. In this study, select immune cells were phenotyped and quantified, and certain cytokine and chemokine concentrations were measured in mouse parotid glands after IR. Further, we used a model where glandular function is restored to assess the immune phenotype in a regenerative response. These data suggest that irradiated parotid tissue does not progress through a typical inflammatory response observed in wounds that heal. Specifically, total immune cells (CD45+) decrease at days 2 and 5 following IR, macrophages (F4/80+CD11b+) decrease at day 2 and 5 and increase at day 30, while neutrophils (Ly6G+CD11b+) significantly increase at day 30 following IR. Additionally, radiation treatment reduces CD3- cells at all time points, significantly increases CD3+/CD4+CD8+ double positive cells, and significantly reduces CD3+/CD4-CD8- double negative cells at day 30 after IR. Previous data indicate that post-IR treatment with IGF-1 restores salivary gland function at day 30, and IGF-1 injections attenuate the increase in macrophages, neutrophils, and CD4+CD8+ T cells observed at day 30 following IR. Taken together, these data indicate that parotid salivary tissue exhibits a dysregulated immune response following radiation treatment which may contribute to chronic loss of function phenotype in head and neck cancer survivors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0297387
JournalPloS one
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Parotid glands have a dysregulated immune response following radiation therapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this