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Exp Cell Res. 1998 May 1;240(2):165-75.

Caspase activation is an early event in anthracycline-induced apoptosis and allows detection of apoptotic cells before they are ingested by phagocytes.

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Laboratoire d'Hématologie, Hôpital Haut Lévêque, Pessac, France.


An increasing number of methods are being described to detect apoptotic cells. However, attempts to detect apoptotic cells in clinical samples are rarely successful. A hypothesis is that apoptotic cells are cleared from the circulation by phagocytosis before they become detectable by conventional morphological or cytometric methods. Using LR73 adhering cells as phagocytes in a model of in vitro phagocytosis, we found that phagocytosis of daunorubicin (DNR)-treated U937, HL60, or K562 leukemia cell lines occurred prior to phosphatidylserine externalization, DNA hydrolysis, chromatin condensation, nuclear fragmentation, or mitochondrial potential alteration. Moreover DNR-treated K562 cells were eliminated by phagocytes while apoptosis was never observed by any of the above methods. By contrast, using a fluorometric batch analysis assay to detect caspase activity in ceramide- or DNR-treated cells (fluorogenic substrate for caspase), we found that caspase activity increased in apoptosis-committed cells before they were detected by flow cytometry or recognized by phagocytes. Similarly a caspase activity increase was detected in circulating mononuclear cells of luekemic patients 15 h after the beginning of anthracyclin treatment. We suggest that recent findings on enzymatic events (caspase activation) occurring in the early events of apoptosis must now allow the development of new markers for apoptosis, irrespective of the morphological features or internucleosomal fragmentation which are late events in apoptosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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