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J Immunol. 1994 May 15;152(10):4832-42.

Decreased membrane phospholipid packing and decreased cell size precede DNA cleavage in mature mouse B cell apoptosis.

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  • 1Iowa City DVA Medical Center, IA.


Mature resting mouse spleen B cells progress stochastically into apoptosis at a uniform rate over the first 16 h in vitro in 3 stages. In stage 1, early apoptotic B cells decreased the normal phospholipid packing of their plasma membranes, detected as increased binding of the lipophilic dye merocyanine 540, and also decreased in volume, detected as decreased forward scatter. In stage 2 there was abrupt internucleosomal cleavage of DNA, quantitated as hypodiploid nuclei by flow cytometry. Some stage 2 cells entered stage 3, where the plasma membrane became permeable to propidium iodide. B cells in later stages of this sequence retained the characteristics of earlier stages, whereas nonapoptotic B cells remained in their original state. Cycloheximide increased the progression of B cells through these three stages, whereas dextran sulfate inhibited stage 1 more effectively than stages 2 or 3. Increased orthogonal scatter also occurred late in some of the cells that had passed through stage 1, but did not correlate well with propidium iodide permeability. Fresh small dense spleen B cells contained 5% to 7% stage 1 cells but only about 1% stage 2 cells. Macrophages have been reported to destroy preferentially apoptotic thymocytes by recognizing plasma membrane alterations deriving from loose packing of phospholipid head groups. The recognition of stage 1 rather than stage 2 B cells by macrophages may help to keep the proportion of apoptotic cells low in vivo.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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