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Cytometry. 1999 Apr 1;35(4):311-7.

Detection of changes in mitochondrial function during apoptosis by simultaneous staining with multiple fluorescent dyes and correlated multiparameter flow cytometry.

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Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195-7705, USA.



The possible relationships between changes in mitochondrial membrane potential and other mitochondrial functions during apoptosis remain controversial.


To detect concomitant changes in mitochondrial function during apoptosis, we performed correlated multiparameter flow cytometry after simultaneous cell staining with several dyes.


After camptothecin treatment, nonapoptotic cells exhibited a concomitant rise in mitochondrial membrane potential [8-(4'-chloromethyl) phenyl-2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 12, 14, 15-octahydro-1H, 4H, 10H, 13H-diquinolizino-8H-xanthylium chloride, or CMXRos; CMXRos fluorescence divided by MitoTracker Green fluorescence], NADH level (ultraviolet-excited blue autofluorescence), and oxidative turnover (H2-CMXRos oxidation). Frankly apoptotic cells showed a decreased mitochondrial membrane potential, NADH level, and oxidative turnover. Oxidative turnover was not sensitive to antimycin A treatment, which suggests that H2-CMXRos oxidation in these cells may be due to lipid peroxidation. In addition, frankly apoptotic cells showed lower cardiolipin levels (by nonyl-acridine orange staining). The efficiency of energy transfer between nonyl-acridine orange and CMXRos was slightly lower in camptothecin-treated nonapoptotic cells and reduced to zero in frankly apoptotic cells.


We conclude that, in an initial phase of camptothecin-induced apoptosis, mitochondrial activity is increased and a subtle loss of structural integrity of the mitochondrial membranes takes place. In frankly apoptotic cells, all measured parameters of mitochondrial collapse and lipid peroxidation occurs.

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