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Mol Hum Reprod. 1998 Aug;4(8):775-83.

Annexin V labelling and terminal transferase-mediated DNA end labelling (TUNEL) assay in human arrested embryos.

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Laboratoire de Biologie de la Reproduction et du Développement, Hôpital Edouard Herriot, Lyon, France.


Confocal laser scanning microscopy was used to observe human arrested and fragmented preimplantation embryos obtained by in-vitro fertilization. Observation of the cellular actin cortex and chromatin showed a high frequency of embryos with blastomeres exhibiting two or more nuclei, while others had nuclei displaying chromatin condensation and fragmentation patterns. Many of the abnormal chromatin images could be due to the process of programmed cell death (apoptosis). The possible link between abnormalities of the blastomeres and apoptosis was investigated using two detection methods for cells undergoing apoptosis. Detection of phosphatidylserine exposure was performed using annexin V; the chromosomal breakdown preceding the nuclear collapse of apoptotic nuclei was tested using the terminal transferase-mediated DNA end labelling (TUNEL) assay. Annexin V staining was observed in all arrested and/or fragmented human embryos, but not in cryopreserved embryos which continued to develop normally after thawing. The TUNEL assay was positive in 30% (15/50) of arrested embryos, all of which had cytoplasmic fragments. In contrast, embryos showing regular size blastomeres without fragments were TUNEL negative.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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