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J Cell Biol. 1994 Oct;127(1):15-20.

Cell nucleus and DNA fragmentation are not required for apoptosis.

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Division of Immunochemistry, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Heidelberg, FRG.


Apoptosis is the predominant form of cell death and occurs under a variety of physiological and pathological conditions. Cells undergoing apoptotic cell death reveal a characteristic sequence of cytological alterations including membrane blebbing and nuclear and cytoplasmic condensation. Activation of an endonuclease which cleaves genomic DNA into internucleosomal DNA fragments is considered to be the hallmark of apoptosis. However, no clear evidence exists that DNA degradation plays a primary and causative role in apoptotic cell death. Here we show that cells enucleated with cytochalasin B still undergo apoptosis induced either by treatment with menadione, an oxidant quinone compound, or by triggering APO-1/Fas, a cell surface molecule involved in physiological cell death. Incubation of enucleated cells with the agonistic monoclonal anti-APO-1 antibody revealed the key morphological features of apoptosis. Moreover, in non-enucleated cells inhibitors of endonuclease blocked DNA fragmentation, but not cell death induced by anti-APO-1. These data suggest that DNA degradation and nuclear signaling are not required for induction of apoptotic cell death.

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