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Brain Res Brain Res Protoc. 2001 Jul;7(3):193-202.

Multiple-label immunocytochemistry for the evaluation of nature of cell death in experimental models of neurodegeneration.

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Mailman Research Center, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.


A prominent feature of neurodegenerative diseases is a loss of specific neuronal populations. The pathophysiological mechanisms responsible are, however, poorly understood. Primary cultures of rodent embryonic neurons represent a useful experimental system for investigation of molecular pathways of neurodegeneration and mechanisms of cell death. Here, we report a technique utilizing triple-label immunocytochemistry with confocal immunofluorescence detection designed to simultaneously assess multiple parameters of cell injury in individual hippocampal neurons in primary culture. This method combines detection of DNA damage (TUNEL or Klenow assay) with double-label immunocytochemistry for the activated form of caspase-3 or, alternatively, caspase-cleaved actin (fractin), and microtubule-associated protein-2 (MAP-2) or beta-tubulin. The combined evaluation of the form of nuclear damage (karyorrhexis, pyknosis), the presence or absence of activated caspase-3, and the extent of the damage to cell cytoskeleton, allows for precise assessment of the extent of injury and the mode of cell death (apoptosis, oncosis) for individual neurons.

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