UMR9187 / U1196 – Chemistry, Modelling and Imaging for Biology (CMIB)

Unit publications

Year of publication 2019

El Hassen Mokrani, Abderrahmane Bensegueni, Ludovic Chaput, Claire Beauvineau, Hanane Djeghim, Liliane Mouawad (2019 May 1)

Identification of New Potent Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors Using Virtual Screening and In Vitro Approaches.

Molecular informatics : 38 : 1800118 : DOI : 10.1002/minf.201800118 Learn more

Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is currently the most favorable target for the symptomatic treatment and reduction of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In order to identify new potent inhibitors of this enzyme, we describe herein a new structure‐based virtual screening (SBVS) using the Institut Curie‐CNRS chemical library (ICCL), which contained at the screening date 14307 compounds. The strategy undertaken in this work consisted of the use of several docking programs in SBVS calculations followed by the application of a consensus method (vSDC) and a scrupulous visual analysis. It allowed us to obtain a high degree of success, with a yield of almost 86 %, since 12 hits were identified among only 14 molecules tested in vitro. Still more remarkably, 6 of these hits were more active than galantamine, the reference inhibitor. These hits were predicted to have good ADMET properties. The two most promising compounds can serve as leads for AD treatment.

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Katerina Duskova, Jérémy Lamarche, Souheila Amor, Coralie Caron, Nicolas Queyriaux, Marie Gaschard, Marie-Jose Penouilh, Guillaume De Robillard, Dominique Delmas, Charles H Devillers, Anton Granzhan, Marie-Paule Teulade-Fichou, Murielle Chavarot-Kerlidou, Bruno Therrien, Sébastien Britton, David Monchaud (2019 Apr 3)

Identification of three-way DNA junction ligands through screening of chemical libraries and validation by complementary in vitro assays.

Journal of medicinal chemistry : 62 : 4456-4466 : DOI : 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.8b01978 Learn more

The human genome is replete with repetitive DNA sequences that can fold into thermodynamically stable secondary structures such as hairpins and quadruplexes. Cellular enzymes exist to cope with these structures whose stable accumulation would result in DNA damage through interference with DNA transactions such as transcription and replication. Therefore, chemical stabilization of secondary DNA structures offers an attractive way to foster DNA transaction-associated damages to trigger cell death in proliferating cancer cells. While much emphasis has been recently given to DNA quadruplexes, we focused here on three-way DNA junctions (TWJ) and report on a strategy to identify TWJ-targeting agents through a combination of in vitro techniques (TWJ-Screen, PAGE, FRET-melting, ESI-MS, dialysis equilibrium and SRB assays). We designed a complete workflow and screened 1200 compounds to identify promising TWJ-ligands selected on stringent criteria in terms of TWJ folding ability, affinity and selectivity.

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David Partouche, Jérémie Mathurin, Antoine Malabirade, Sergio Marco, Christophe Sandt, Véronique Arluison, Ariane Deniset-Besseau, Sylvain Trépout (2019 Apr 1)

Correlative infrared nanospectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy to investigate nanometric amyloid fibrils: prospects and challenges.

Journal of microscopy : 274 : 23-31 : DOI : 10.1111/jmi.12779 Learn more

Propagation of structural information through conformational changes in host-encoded amyloid proteins is at the root of many neurodegenerative disorders. Although important breakthroughs have been made in the field, fundamental issues like the 3D-structures of the fibrils involved in some of those disorders are still to be elucidated. To better characterise those nanometric fibrils, a broad range of techniques is currently available. Nevertheless none of them is able to perform direct chemical characterisation of single protein fibrils. In this work, we propose to investigate the structure of the C-terminal region of a bacterial protein called Hfq as a model amyloidogenic protein, using a correlative approach. The complementary techniques used are transmission electron microscopy and a newly developed infrared nanospectroscopy technique called AFM-IR. We introduce and discuss the strategy that we have implemented as well as the protocol, challenges and difficulties encountered during this study to characterise amyloid assemblies at the nearly single-molecule level. LAY DESCRIPTION: Propagation of structural information through conformational changes in amyloid proteins is at the root of many neurodegenerative disorders. Amyloids are nanostructures originating from the aggregation of multiple copies of peptide or protein monomers that eventually form fibrils. Often described as being the cause for the development of various diseases, amyloid fibrils are of major significance in the public health domain. While important breakthroughs have been made in the field, fundamental issues like the 3D-structures of the fibrils implied in some of those disorders are still to be elucidated. To better characterise these fibrils, a broad range of techniques is currently available for the detection and visualisation of amyloid nanostructures. Nevertheless none of them is able to perform direct chemical characterisation of single protein fibrils. In this work, we propose to investigate the structure of model amyloidogenic fibrils using a correlative approach. The complementary techniques used are transmission electron microscopy and a newly developed infrared nanospectroscopy technique called AFM-IR that allows chemical characterisation at the nanometric scale. The strategy, protocol, challenges and difficulties encountered in this approach are introduced and discussed herein.

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Paul D., Marchand A., Verga D., Bombard S., Teulade-Fichou M.P., Rosu F., Gabelica V. (2019 Feb 28)

Probing Ligand and Cation Binding Sites in G-Quadruplex Nucleic Acids by Mass Spectrometry and Electron Photodetachment Dissociation Sequencing

Analyst : Accepted Manuscript : DOI : 10.1039/C9AN00398C Learn more

Mass spectrometry provides exquisite detail on ligand and cation binding stoichiometries with a DNA target. The next important step is to develop reliable methods to determine the cation and ligand binding sites in each complex separated by the mass spectrometer. To circumvent the caveat of ligand derivatization for cross-linking, which may alter the ligand binding mode, we explored a tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) method that does not require ligand derivatization, and is therefore also applicable to localize metal cations. By obtaining more negative charge states for the complexes using supercharging agents, and by creating radical ions by electron photodetachment, oligonucleotide bonds become weaker than the DNA-cation or DNA-ligand noncovalent bonds upon collision-induced dissociation of the radicals. This electron photodetachment (EPD) method allows to locate the binding regions of cations and ligands by top-down sequencing of the oligonucleotide target. The very potent G-quadruplex ligands 360A and PhenDC3 were found to replace a potassium cation and bind close to the central loop of 4-repeat human telomeric sequences.

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Daghildjian K., Kasselouri A., N’Diaye M., Michel J.P., Vergnaud J., Poyer F., Maillard P., Rosilio V. (2019 Feb 23)

Mannose distribution in glycoconjugated tetraphenylporphyrins governs their uptake mechanism and phototoxicity

Journal of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines : 23 : 175-184 : DOI : 10.1142/S1088424619500184 Learn more

Tetraphenylporphyrins (TPPs) have been proposed for the treatment of retinoblastoma by photodynamic therapy. Glycoconjugated compounds were synthesized for improving TPP solubility and amphipathy, and to specifically target mannose receptors overexpressed at the surface of cells. The efficiency of four TPP derivatives with different chemical structures was compared by phototoxicity tests and flow cytometry experiments. Interestingly, the absence/presence and distribution of saccharide moieties in the various compounds affected differently their mechanism of interaction with cancer cells and their phototoxic efficiency. For glycodendrimeric TPP-1 and TPP-2 incubated with retinoblastoma cells, a fast two-step uptake-equilibrium process was observed, whereas for a dendrimeric TPP without saccharide moieties (TPP-1c) and a glycoconjugated compound with no dendrimeric structure (TPP(DegMan)3) uptake was very slow. The difference in uptake profiles and kinetics between TPP-1c on the one hand and TPP-1 and TPP-2 on the other hand would account for the interaction of the two glycodendrimeric compounds with a mannose receptor. These TPPs encapsulated in endosomes would induce less damage to cells upon illumination. TPP(DegMan)3 showed the highest phototoxicity, but its efficiency was unaffected by pretreatment of cells by mannan. The penetration of this glycoconjugated compound in cells and its phototoxic effect appeared independent of its interaction with a mannose receptor. Thus, if glycoconjugation influenced TPPs behavior in solution and interaction with serum proteins, phototoxicity was not necessarily related to upfront molecular recognition.

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Morgan Pellerano, Delphine Naud-Martin, Florence Mahuteau-Betzer, Marie Morille, May Catherine Morris (2019 Feb 15)

Fluorescent biosensor for detection of the R248Q aggregation-prone mutant of p53.

Chembiochem : a European journal of chemical biology : 20 : 605-613 : DOI : 10.1002/cbic.201800531 Learn more

The p53 tumour suppressor and guardian of the genome undergoes missense mutations which lead to functional inactivation in 50% human cancers. These mutations occur mostly in the DNA-binding domain of the protein and several of these induce conformational changes which lead to amyloid-like protein aggregation. Here we describe a fluorescent biosensor that reports on the R248Q mutant of p53 in vitro and in living cells, engineered through conjugation of an environmentally-sensitive probe onto a peptide derived from the primary aggregation segment of p53.This biosensor was characterized both in vitro and by fluorescence microscopy following facilitated delivery into cultured cells. We show that this biosensor preferentially reports on the p53 R248Q mutant in PC9 lung cancer cell line compared to other lung cancer cell lines harbouring either wildtype or no p53.

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Coralie Caron, Xuan N T Duong, Régis Guillot, Sophie Bombard, Anton Granzhan (2019 Feb 6)

Interaction of Functionalized Naphthalenophanes with Abasic Sites in DNA: DNA Cleavage, DNA Cleavage Inhibition, and Formation of Ligand-DNA Adducts.

Chemistry - A European Journal : 25 : 1949–1962 : DOI : 10.1002/chem.201805555 Learn more

GA-ChemEurJ-2018-2Ligands interacting with abasic (AP) sites in DNA may generate roadblocks in base-excision DNA repair (BER) due to indirect inhibition of DNA repair enzymes (e.g., APE1) and/or formation of toxic byproducts, resulting from ligand-induced strand cleavage or covalent cross-links. Herein, we prepared and systematically studied a series of 12 putative AP-site ligands, sharing the common naphthalenophane scaffold but endowed with a variety of substituents. Our results demonstrate that most naphthalenophanes bind to AP-sites in DNA and inhibit the APE1-induced hydrolysis of the latter in vitro. Remarkably, their APE1 inhibitory activity, as characterized by IC50 and Ki values, can be directly related to their affinity and selectivity to AP-sites, assessed from the fluorescence-melting experiments. On the other hand, the molecular design of naphthalenophanes has crucial influence on their intrinsic AP-site cleavage activity (i.e., ligand-catalyzed β- and β,δ-elimination reactions at the AP site), as illustrated by the compounds either having an exceptionally high AP-site cleavage activity (e.g., 2,7 BisNP-S, 125-fold more efficacious than spermine) or totally devoid of this activity (four compounds). Finally, we reveal the unprecedented formation of a stable covalent DNA adduct upon reaction of one ligand (2,7-BisNP-NH) with its own product of AP-site cleavage.

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Nathalie Fretellier, Agnès Granottier, Marlène Rasschaert, Anne-Laure Grindel, Fannie Baudimont, Philippe Robert, Jean-Marc Idée, Claire Corot (2019 Feb 1)

Does Age Interfere With Gadolinium Toxicity and Presence in Brain and Bone Tissues?: A Comparative Gadoterate Versus Gadodiamide Study in Juvenile and Adult Rats.

Investigative radiology : 54 : 61-71 : DOI : 10.1097/RLI.0000000000000517 Learn more


The main objective of the study was to assess the effect of age on target tissue total gadolinium (Gd) retention after repeated administration of gadodiamide (linear) or gadoterate (macrocyclic) Gd-based contrast agent (GBCA) in rats. The secondary objective was to assess the potential developmental and long-term consequences of GBCA administration during neonatal and juvenile periods.

Materials and Methods

A total of 20 equivalent human clinical doses (cumulated dose, 12 mmol Gd/kg) of either gadoterate or gadodiamide were administered concurrently by the intravenous route to healthy adult and juvenile rats. Saline was administered to juvenile rats forming the control group. In juvenile rats, the doses were administered from postnatal day 12, that is, once the blood-brain barrier is functional as in humans after birth. The tests were conducted on 5 juvenile rats per sex and per group and on 3 adult animals per sex and per group. T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging of the cerebellum was performed at 4.7 T during both the treatment and treatment-free periods. Behavioral tests were performed in juvenile rats. Rats were euthanatized at 11 to 12 weeks (ie, approximately 3 months) after the last administration. Total Gd concentrations were measured in plasma, skin, bone, and brain by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Cerebellum samples from the juvenile rats were characterized by histopathological examination (including immunohistochemistry for glial fibrillary acidic protein or GFAP, and CD68). Lipofuscin pigments were also studied by fluorescence microscopy. All tests were performed blindly on randomized animals.


Transient skin lesions were observed in juvenile rats (5/5 females and 2/4 males) and not in adult rats having received gadodiamide. Persisting (up to completion of the study) T1 hyperintensity in the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCNs) was observed only in gadodiamide-treated rats. Quantitatively, a slightly higher progressive increase in the DCN/brain stem ratio was observed in adult rats compared with juvenile rats, whereas no difference was noted visually. In all tissues, total Gd concentrations were higher (10- to 30-fold higher) in the gadodiamide-treated groups than in the gadoterate groups. No age-related differences were observed except in bone marrow where total Gd concentrations in gadodiamide-treated juvenile rats were higher than those measured in adults and similar to those measured in cortical bone tissue. No significant treatment-related effects were observed in histopathological findings or in development, behavior, and biochemistry parameters. However, in the elevated plus maze test, a trend toward an anxiogenic effect was observed in the gadodiamide group compared with other groups (nonsignificant). Moreover, in the balance beam test, a high number of trials were excluded in the gadodiamide group because rats (mainly males) did not completely cross the beam, which may also reflect an anxiogenic effect.


No T1 hyperintensity was observed in the DCN after administration of the macrocyclic GBCA gadoterate regardless of age as opposed to administration of the linear GBCA gadodiamide. Repeated administration of gadodiamide in neonatal and juvenile rats resulted in similar total Gd retention in the skin, brain, and bone to that in adult rats with sex having no effect, whereas Gd distribution in bone marrow was influenced by age. Further studies are required to assess the form of the retained Gd and to investigate the potential risks associated with Gd retention in bone marrow in juvenile animals treated with gadodiamide. Regardless of age, total Gd concentration in the brain and bone was 10- to 30-fold higher after administration of gadodiamide compared with gadoterate.

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Delphine Naud-Martin, Corinne Landras-Guetta, Daniela Verga, Deepanjan Ghosh, Sylvain Achelle, Florence Mahuteau-Betzer, Sophie Bombard, Marie-Paule Teulade-Fichou (2019 Jan 26)

Selectivity of Terpyridine Platinum Anticancer Drugs for G-quadruplex DNA.

Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) : 24 : 404 : DOI : 10.3390/molecules24030404 Learn more

Guanine-rich DNA can form four-stranded structures called G-quadruplexes (G4s) that can regulate many biological processes. Metal complexes have shown high affinity and selectivity toward the quadruplex structure. Here, we report the comparison of a panel of platinum (II) complexes for quadruplex DNA selective recognition by exploring the aromatic core around terpyridine derivatives. Their affinity and selectivity towards G4 structures of various topologies have been evaluated by FRET-melting (Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfert-melting) and Fluorescent Intercalator Displacement (FID) assays, the latter performed by using three different fluorescent probes (Thiazole Orange (TO), TO-PRO-3, and PhenDV). Their ability to bind covalently to the c-myc G4 structure in vitro and their cytotoxicity potential in two ovarian cancerous cell lines were established. Our results show that the aromatic surface of the metallic ligands governs, in vitro, their affinity, their selectivity for the G4 over the duplex structures, and platination efficiency. However, the structural modifications do not allow significant discrimination among the different G4 topologies. Moreover, all compounds were tested on ovarian cancer cell lines and normal cell lines and were all able to overcome cisplatin resistance highlighting their interest as new anticancer drugs.

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M Schmidt-Cernohorska, I Zhernov, E Steib, M Le Guennec, R Achek, S Borgers, D Demurtas, L Mouawad, Z Lansky, V Hamel, P Guichard (2019 Jan 19)

Flagellar microtubule doublet assembly in vitro reveals a regulatory role of tubulin C-terminal tails.

Science (New York, N.Y.) : 363 : 285-288 : DOI : 10.1126/science.aav2567 Learn more

Microtubule doublets (MTDs), consisting of an incomplete B-microtubule at the surface of a complete A-microtubule, provide a structural scaffold mediating intraflagellar transport and ciliary beating. Despite the fundamental role of MTDs, the molecular mechanism governing their formation is unknown. We used a cell-free assay to demonstrate a crucial inhibitory role of the carboxyl-terminal (C-terminal) tail of tubulin in MTD assembly. Removal of the C-terminal tail of an assembled A-microtubule allowed for the nucleation of a B-microtubule on its surface. C-terminal tails of only one A-microtubule protofilament inhibited this side-to-surface tubulin interaction, which would be overcome in vivo with binding protein partners. The dynamics of B-microtubule nucleation and its distinctive isotropic elongation was elucidated by using live imaging. Thus, inherent interaction properties of tubulin provide a structural basis driving flagellar MTD assembly.

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Michela Zuffo, Xiao Xie, Anton Granzhan (2018 Dec 6)

Strength in Numbers: Development of a Fluorescence Sensor Array for Secondary Structures of DNA.

Chemistry - A European Journal : 25 : 1812–1818 : DOI : 10.1002/chem.201805422 Learn more

GA-ChemEurJ-2018-3High-throughput assessment of secondary structures adopted by DNA oligonucleotides is currently hampered by the lack of suitable biophysical methods. Fluorescent sensors hold great potential in this respect; however, the moderate selectivity that they display for one DNA conformation over the others constitutes a major drawback to the development of accurate assays. Moreover, the use of single sensors impedes a comprehensive classification of the tested sequences. Herein, we propose to overcome these limitations through the development of a fluorescence sensor array constituted by easily accessible, commercial dyes. Multivariate analysis of the emission data matrix produced by the array allows to explore the conformational preferences of DNA sequences of interest, either by calculating the probability of group membership in the six predefined structural categories (three G-quadruplex groups, double-stranded, and two groups of single-stranded forms), or by revealing their particular structural features. The assay enables rapid screening of synthetic DNA oligonucleotides in a 96-wells plate format.

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Year of publication 2018

Partouche D., Turbant F., El Hamoui O., Campidelli C., Bombled M., Trépout S., Wien F., Arluison V. (2018 Dec 1)

Epigallocatechin Gallate Remodelling of Hfq Amyloid-Like Region Affects Escherichia coli Survival

Pathogens : 7 : 95 : DOI : 10.3390/pathogens7040095 Learn more

Hfq is a pleiotropic regulator that has key roles in the control of genetic expression. The protein noticeably regulates translation efficiency and RNA decay in Gram-negative bacteria, due to the Hfq-mediated interaction between small regulatory noncoding RNA and mRNA. This property is of primary importance for bacterial adaptation and virulence. We have previously shown that the Hfq E. coli protein, and more precisely its C-terminal region (CTR), self-assembles into an amyloid-like structure. In the present work, we demonstrate that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a major green tea polyphenol compound, targets the Hfq amyloid region and can be used as a potential antibacterial agent. We analysed the effect of this compound on Hfq amyloid fibril stability and show that EGCG both disrupts Hfq-CTR fibrils and inhibits their formation. We show that, even if EGCG affects other bacterial amyloids, it also specifically targets Hfq-CTR in vivo. Our results provide an alternative approach for the utilisation of EGCG that may be used synergistically with conventional antibiotics to block bacterial adaptation and treat infections.

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Prado Martins R., Findakly S., Daskalogianni C., Teulade-Fichou M.P., Blondel M., Fåhraeus R. (2018 Nov 29)

In Cellulo Protein-mRNA Interaction Assay to Determine the Action of G-Quadruplex-Binding Molecules

Molecules : 23 : 3124 : DOI : 10.3390/molecules23123124 Learn more

Protein-RNA interactions (PRIs) control pivotal steps in RNA biogenesis, regulate multiple physiological and pathological cellular networks, and are emerging as important drug targets. However, targeting of specific protein-RNA interactions for therapeutic developments is still poorly advanced. Studies and manipulation of these interactions are technically challenging and in vitro drug screening assays are often hampered due to the complexity of RNA structures. The binding of nucleolin (NCL) to a G-quadruplex (G4) structure in the messenger RNA (mRNA) of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-encoded EBNA1 has emerged as an interesting therapeutic target to interfere with immune evasion of EBV-associated cancers. Using the NCL-EBNA1 mRNA interaction as a model, we describe a quantitative proximity ligation assay (PLA)-based in cellulo approach to determine the structure activity relationship of small chemical G4 ligands. Our results show how different G4 ligands have different effects on NCL binding to G4 of the EBNA1 mRNA and highlight the importance of in-cellulo screening assays for targeting RNA structure-dependent interactions.

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Verga D., Nguyen C.H., Dakir M., Coll J.L., Teulade-Fichou M.P., Molla A. (2018 Nov 20)

Polyheteroaryl Oxazole/Pyridine-based compounds selected in vitro as G-quadruplex ligands inhibit Rock kinase and exhibit antiproliferative activity

Journal of Medicinal Chemistry : 61 : 10502-10518 : DOI : 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.8b01023 Learn more

Heptaheteroaryl compounds comprised of oxazole and pyridine units (TOxaPy) are quadruplex DNA (G4)-interactive compounds. Herein, we report on the synthesis of parent compounds bearing either amino side chains (TOxaPy-1-5) or featuring an isomeric oxazole-pyridine central connectivity (iso-TOxapy, iso-TOxapy 1-3) or a bipyridine core (iso-TOxabiPy). The new isomeric series showed significant G4-binding activity in vitro and remarkably 3 compounds (iso-TOxaPy, iso-TOxaPy-1, iso-TOxabiPy) exhibited high antiproliferative activity towards a tumor panel of cancer cell lines. However, these compounds do not behave as typical G-quadruplex binders and the kinase profiling assay revealed that the best antiproliferative molecule iso-TOxaPy selectively inhibited Rock-2. The targeting of Rock kinase was confirmed in cells by the dephosphorylation of Rock-2 substrates, the decrease of stress fibers and peripheral focal adhesions, as well as the induction of long neurite-like extensions. Remarkably two of these molecules were able to inhibit the growth of cells organized as spheroids.

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Annalisa Patriarca, Charles Fouillade, Michel Auger, Frédéric Martin, Frédéric Pouzoulet, Catherine Nauraye, Sophie Heinrich, Vincent Favaudon, Samuel Meyroneinc, Rémi Dendale, Alejandro Mazal, Philip Poortmans, Pierre Verrelle, Ludovic De Marzi (2018 Nov 1)

Experimental set-up for FLASH proton irradiation of small animals using a clinical system

International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics : 102 : 619-626 : DOI : 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2018.06.403 Learn more


Recent in vivo investigations have shown that short pulses (FLASH) of electrons are less harmful to healthy tissues, but just as efficient as conventional dose-rate radiation to inhibit tumor growth. In view of the potential clinical value of FLASH and the availability of modern proton therapy infrastructures to achieve this goal, we herein describe a series of technological developments required to investigate the biology of FLASH irradiation, using a commercially available clinical proton therapy system.

Methods and materials

Numerical simulations and experimental dosimetric characterization of a modified clinical proton beamline, upstream from the isocenter were performed with Monte Carlo toolkit and different detectors. A single scattering system was optimized together with a ridge filter and a high current monitoring system. In addition, a submillimetric set-up protocol based on image-guidance using a digital camera and an animal positioning system was also developed.


The dosimetric properties of the resulting beam and monitoring system were characterized: linearity with dose rate and homogeneity for a 12×12 mm2 field size were assessed. Dose rates exceeding 40 Gy/s at energies between 138 and 198 MeV were obtained, enabling uniform irradiation for radiobiology investigations on small animals in a modified clinical proton beam line.


This approach will enable us to conduct FLASH proton therapy experiments on small animals, specifically for mouse lung irradiation. Dose rates exceeding 40 Gy/s were achieved, which was not possible with the conventional clinical mode of the existing beamline.

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