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Cytometry. 1992;13(2):137-43.

Comparative evaluation of several DNA binding dyes in the detection of apoptosis-associated chromatin degradation by flow cytometry.

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Department of Microbiology and Public Health, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824.


Mouse thymocytes readily undergo apoptosis-associated DNA degradation upon exposure to glucocorticoids or ionizing radiation. It has been previously shown that flow cytometric cell cycle analysis of propidium iodide-stained apoptotic thymocytes results in the appearance of a distinct cell cycle region (the A0 region) below the G0/G1 region. Cells in this region were shown to be undergoing apoptosis, and determination of apoptosis by flow cytometric analysis was proposed as a superior method for evaluating thymocyte apoptosis. In this study, a variety of DNA binding dyes with diverse primary binding mechanisms were evaluated for their ability to detect glucocorticoid and ionizing radiation-induced apoptosis in mouse thymocytes. Apoptotic thymocytes stained with DNA binding dyes from the phenanthridinium, acridine, actinomycin, chromomycinone, anthracycline, and bisbenzimidazole groups all demonstrated clearly defined A0 regions with percentages comparable to those obtained for propidium iodide. These results indicate that the appearance of the A0 region is not dependent on a particular dye binding characteristic and may be the consequence of extensive changes in chromatin structure resulting in a significant degree of dye exclusion.

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