Rats were exposed to either 300 or 500 röntgen (R) acute whole-body X-irradiation on the 5th day of delayed pregnancy induced by ovariectomy. From 0 to 8 days after irradiation, implantation was induced by the administration of oestrogen. Foetal survival to the 20th day of development was used as an index of radiation effect.
If oestrogen was given immediately after exposure to 300 R, or 12 h later, only 30–35% of the embryos survived, significantly less (P < 0·01) than the non-irradiated control values of 74–79%. When implantation was postponed for 24 h or more, embryonic survival ranged from 57 to 64% and was not significantly different from that of controls.
After exposure to 500 R X-irradiation, embryonic survival increased linearly from 2% to a maximum of 41% as the interval between irradiation and oestrogen administration increased from 0 to 48 h. Embryonic survival never reached control levels after 500 R, regardless of the interval between irradiation and implantation. The irradiation regimens also induced developmental abnormalities, doubled the incidence of dead foetuses (death at a late stage of development), and significantly reduced foetal and placental weights at autopsy.
The results confirm that recovery from potentially lethal X-irradiation damage can occur during delayed implantation, and demonstrate that both the extent and the rate of recovery are functions of the radiation dose.