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Curr Biol. 1999 May 20;9(10):543-6.

Apoptotic nuclear morphological change without DNA fragmentation.

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Department of Genetics, Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology, Japan Science and Technology Corporation, 2-2 Yamada-oka, Suita, Osaka, 565-0871, Japan.


Apoptosis is characterized morphologically by condensation and fragmentation of nuclei and cells and biochemically by fragmentation of chromosomal DNA into nucleosomal units [1]. CAD, also known as CPAN or DFF-40, is a DNase that can be activated by caspases [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]. CAD is complexed with its inhibitor, ICAD, in growing, non-apoptotic cells [2] [7]. Caspases that are activated by apoptotic stimuli [8] cleave ICAD. CAD, thus released from ICAD, digests chromosomal DNA into nucleosomal units [2] [3]. Here, we examine whether nuclear morphological changes induced by apoptotic stimuli are caused by the degradation of chromosomal DNA. Human T-cell lymphoma Jurkat cells, as well as their transformants expressing caspase-resistant ICAD, were treated with staurosporine. The chromosomal DNA in Jurkat cells underwent fragmentation into nucleosomal units, which was preceded by large-scale chromatin fragmentation (50-200 kb). The chromosomal DNA in cells expressing caspase-resistant ICAD remained intact after treatment with staurosporine but their chromatin condensed as found in parental Jurkat cells. These results indicate that large-scale chromatin fragmentation and nucleosomal DNA fragmentation are caused by an ICAD-inhibitable DNase, most probably CAD, whereas chromatin condensation during apoptosis is controlled, at least in part, independently from the degradation of chromosomal DNA.

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