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Cell Death Differ. 1998 Jan;5(1):60-6.

Aberrant death in dark chondrocytes of the avian growth plate.

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A. Kirchenstein Institute of Microbiology and Virology, Riga, LV-1067, Latvia.


Growth plate chondrocytes of embryonic chick femurs were examined by electron microscopy, cytophotometry and autoradiography. Apart from the well-described 'light' chondrocyte, a different 'dark' type of chondrocyte was present, comprising 10 - 35% of the cell population. They were found at all stages of chondrocyte differentiation and in all ages of the femurs studied. Well developed rough endoplasmatic reticulum and Golgi complex, many secretory vesicles, energetically active mitochondria and a lot of glycogen, indicating high activity of the cytoplasm, were combined with low RNA synthesis, gentle margination and scattered compaction of the chromatin. DNA cytometry revealed that most of dark cells were diploid, but 15 - 30% were tetraploid, with the absence of an S-phase. Substantial loss of DNA was found in about 10% of dark chondrocytes. The TUNEL reaction demonstrated a limited number of DNA strand breaks. Advanced dark cells possessed the nuclear features of both apoptosis and necrosis. Besides chromomeric-chromonemic compaction, a chromatin arrangement similar to that of prometaphase and metaphase, as well as amitotic nuclear segregation, all of them degenerative, were found. Our interpretation is that the dark chondrocytes undergo an aberrant type of cell death which may be combined with aberrant cell cycle. Cell death of dark chondrocytes is preceded by a pre-mortal burst of secretion.

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