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Apoptosis. 2004 May;9(3):385-92.

Apoptotic cell death kinetics in vitro depend on the cell types and the inducers used.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Chemistry, Medisch Spectrum Twente, Hospital Group, P.O. Box 50000, 7500 KA Enschede, The Netherlands.



In vitro exposure of cells to a fluorochrome-labeled inhibitor of caspases (FLICA) labels cells after caspase activation and arrests further progress of apoptotic cell death. The labeled apoptotic cells can be quantified in relation to time of apoptosis induction with flow cytometry. Loss of membrane integrity (late apoptosis and cell death) was measured with exposure to propidium iodide (PI). From the labeling patterns with FLICA and PI the apoptotic cell death kinetics was calculated.


HL60 cells and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were incubated in the presence of the fluorescent inhibitor of caspases, FAM-VAD-FMK (20 mM, FLICA) for up to 48 h. Apoptosis was induced by Camptothecin (CPT, 0.15 microM) or by a mixture of tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha, 3 nM)-Cycloheximide (CHX, 50 microM). Samples were counterstained with PI.


Incubation of HL60 cells with CPT induced apoptosis in 92% of cells within the first 18 h at a rate of 5% per hour while incubation with TNF-alpha/CHX resulted in apoptosis in 76% of the cells within the first 6 h at a rate of 12% per hour. Incubation of HUVECs with TNF-alpha/CHX induced apoptosis in 65% of the cells within the first 18 h at a rate of 3.7% per hour during the first 6 h of the incubation. During incubation with TNF-alpha/CHX the remaining viable HL60 cells and HUVECs entered apoptosis within 48 h at an approximate rate of 0.2 per hour. However, on the road of the cell death, HL60 cells showed a transit from the viable (FLICA-/PI-) to early (FLICA+/PI-) and further to late apoptotic phase (FLICA+/PI+), while HUVECs entered directly from the viable to the late apoptotic stage.


Apoptotic turnover rate depends on the stimulus used to induce apoptosis, while the type of the cell determines the way of the transition within the apoptotic cascade.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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