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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2000 Jun 1;47(3):767-77.

Different mechanisms between premitotic apoptosis and postmitotic apoptosis in X-irradiated U937 cells.

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Department of Microbiology, National Defense Medical College, Namiki 3-2, Saitama 359-8513, Tokorozawa, Japan.



Apoptosis is currently being evaluated for its importance as a pathway of radiation-induced cell death. However, the difference in the mechanisms between premitotic and postmitotic apoptosis following X-irradiation remains not well understood. We show here that the human monoblastoid cell line U937 can be induced to undergo these two different types of apoptosis.


U937 cells were irradiated at a dose of 5 or 20 Gy, and the DNA fragmentation rate was measured by both flow cytometric analysis and gel electrophoresis. Activation of caspase-3 was detected by Western blot analysis and fluorogenic assay using acetyl-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp-7-amino-4-methyl-coumarin (Ac-DEVD-AMC). Detection of mitochondrial transmembrane potential (DeltaPsi) was performed by using Rho123. Chasing of S-phase fraction following X-irradiation was performed after labeling with 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU). Thymidine was used for synchronization of the cells. Inhibition of caspase-3 activity was achieved by Acetyl-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp-aldehyde (Ac-DEVD-CHO).


Time courses of the apoptotic rates, caspase activation, and DeltaPsi indicated that two different types of cell death were induced by the different X-ray doses. High-dose X-ray (20 Gy) induced a rapid and strong apoptosis, whereas low-dose X-ray (5 Gy) induced a slow and mild apoptosis. Cell-cycle analyses revealed that there was cell death before cell division in the former apoptosis but the cells must be dying after cell division in the latter apoptosis. By means of cell-cycle synchronization, the S-phase cells proved to be the most sensitive fraction to premitotic apoptosis, but an obvious difference in the susceptibility to cell death among the cell-cycle phases was not observed in postmitotic apoptosis. Ac-DEVD-CHO treatment effectively blocked caspase activity and premitotic apoptosis, but it failed to block postmitotic apoptosis.


Irradiation of U937 cells at different X-ray doses induced two different types of apoptotic cell death, premitotic apoptosis and postmitotic apoptosis, which are characterized by the time course and cell-cycle specificity. Decision concerning these two types of apoptotic cell death may be made by the difference in the magnitude of cell damage following X-irradiation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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