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Curr Protoc Cytom. 2004 Nov;Chapter 7:Unit 7.27. doi: 10.1002/0471142956.cy0727s30.

Detection of histone H2AX phosphorylation on Ser-139 as an indicator of DNA damage (DNA double-strand breaks).

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Brander Cancer Research Institute, Valhalla, New York, USA.


This unit describes immunocytochemical detection of phosphorylated histone H2AX for revealing the presence of DNA double-strand breaks. Double-strand breaks indicate DNA damage induced by ionizing radiation or by treatment with antitumor drugs such as DNA topoisomerase inhibitors. However, double-strand breaks can also be intrinsic, occurring in healthy, nontreated cells for a variety of reasons, and are generated in the course of DNA fragmentation in apoptotic cells. The unit presents strategies to distinguish radiation- or drug-induced breaks from those intrinsically formed in untreated cells or associated with apoptosis. The protocol describes the immunocytochemical detection of histone H2AX phosphorylated on Ser-139 combined with measurement of DNA content to identify cells that have DNA double-strand breaks and to concurrently assess their cell cycle phase. The detection is based on indirect immunofluorescence using a FITC-labeled secondary antibody, and DNA is counterstained with propidium iodide (PI). Cellular RNA, which may be stained by PI, is removed with RNase A.

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