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J Histochem Cytochem. 1993 Jun;41(6):819-27.

Characterization of the phenotype and birthdates of pyknotic dead cells in the nervous system by a combination of DNA staining and immunohistochemistry for 5'-bromodeoxyuridine and neural antigens.

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Unidad de Biología Celular, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Barcelona, Spain.


Cells displaying highly condensed pyknotic nuclei, the most characteristic feature of apoptosis, are considered as dead cells in neural tissue. The present study aimed to devise methods that could allow the neurogenetic and phenotypic characterization of dying pyknotic cells. In the first set of experiments, pregnant mice were labeled at embryonic days E10-E16 with pulses of 5'-bromodeoxyuridine visualization of BrdU after an immunoperoxidase reaction. In addition to normal, healthy immunopositive nuclei, these preparations displayed a number of pyknotic nuclei that were immunoreactive for BrdU. Both the regional and the temporal distribution of BrdU-positive pyknotic cells were coincidental with the peaks of dead cells in neural tissue. For example, pulses of BrdU at E10-E11 resulted in the visualization of immunoreactive pyknotic cells in the subplate and white matter of the cerebral cortex in early postnatal (P) animals. Thus, the times of generation (birthdates) of cells subjected to degenerative processes can be unequivocally identified. In the second set of experiments, brain sections from unlabeled littermates were immunostained for a variety of neural and glial markers and counterstained with bisbenzimide, to find antigens which, by being present in degenerate pyknotic cells, could indicate the phenotype of such cells. Although no pyknotic cells were positively immunostained for neurofilaments, neuropeptide Y, somatostatin, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, or vimentin, a number of pyknotic cells were found to be immunoreactive for microtubule-associated protein 2, gamma-aminobutyric acid, calbindin 28KD, and glial fibrillary acidic protein. The percentage of pyknotic cells labeled with neural antigens accounted for more than 20% of the total number of pyknotic cells in a given brain region. In contrast, GFAP-positive pyknotic cells represented up to 50% of the total pyknotic cell population. The method shown here has enabled us to determine that both neurons and glial cells undergo degeneration during normal development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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