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Cytotechnology. 2013 Jan;65(1):59-70. doi: 10.1007/s10616-012-9455-0. Epub 2012 Jun 6.

Relationships of diverse apoptotic death process patterns to mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψ(m)) evaluated by three-parameter flow cytometric analysis.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, 1-7-1, Sakamoto, Nagasaki City, 852-8501, Japan.


Recently, it has been proposed that novel methodologies are needed to re-evaluate apoptotic cell death, as studies of apoptosis have shown it to be a complex process. Since mitochondria are key regulators in cell death pathways, we developed a simultaneous 3-parameter flow cytometric analysis that incorporates the change in mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψ(m)) in an Annexin-V [for phosphatidyl-serine (PS)] and propidium iodide (PI) assay system (3 parameters with 4 colours), and evaluated the apoptotic process using various haematological malignant cell lines and death triggers. The present method enabled visualization of cell composition during apoptosis and captured complicated molecular events. For example, apoptotic cells that lost Δψ(m) did not always externalize PS, while some late apoptotic cells had polarized Δψ(m). The findings of unchanged PS-externalization and aberrant cell death suggest that there is no relationship of PS externalization and apoptosis with an unknown apoptotic mechanism. Based on PS-externalization, sensitivity to staurosporine, and the combination of cell lines and triggers, the apoptotic process was classified into 2 types. Importantly, most of our findings could not be observed by PS-PI and Δψ(m) assays when independently performed. Our method may be useful for examining mitochondrial-related apoptosis and death signalling pathways, as well as screening novel apoptosis-inducing cancer drugs.

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