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Cytometry. 1999 Feb 1;35(2):145-53.

Identification of nuclei from apoptotic, necrotic, and viable lymphoid cells by using multiparameter flow cytometry.

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Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Sciences, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy.



Methods widely used to detect apoptosis do not allow us to easily distinguish between nuclei from viable or necrotic cells. Even if apoptosis and necrosis seem to occur as alternatives at the single cell level, they could be present simultaneously in a cell population much more frequently than expected. For this reason, attention was focused on attempting to recognize, by multiparameter flow cytometry, the characteristics of viable cells and of apoptotic or necrotic dead cells.


Apoptosis and necrosis were induced in vitro in murine thymocytes and lymphocytes from adult peripheral blood by using dexamethasone or prostaglandin E2 treatment and heat shock at 60 degrees C or hydrogen peroxide, respectively. Traditional methods, such as DNA gel electrophoresis and propidium iodide staining followed by single-fluorescence analysis or annexin-V-fluorescein isothiocyanate plus propidium iodide staining by using flow cytometry, were compared with a new method. This method consisted of combined light-scatter and red fluorescence analysis by flow cytometry after isolation of nuclei by hypotonic solution as well as high-dose detergent treatment and DNA staining with propidium iodide.


Results showed that, although traditional methods such as DNA-gel electrophoresis and single-parameter fluorescence flow cytometry analysis were unable, as expected, to discriminate among viability, apoptosis, and necrosis, our new method has enabled us to easily identify nuclei from viable, apoptotic, and necrotic cells. Results obtained by using our method were comparable to those obtained by using two-color analysis of cells after propidium iodide/annexin V staining.


A highly reproducible, inexpensive, rapid, and easily accessible method of analysis has been developed for simultaneously detecting apoptosis and necro sis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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