Utilization of an in vitro assay to evaluate chromatin degradation by candidate apoptotic nucleases.


Journal Article

Apoptosis is commonly associated with the catabolism of the genome in the dying cell. The chromatin degradation occurs in essentially two forms: (1) internucleosomal DNA cleavage to generate oligonucleosomal-length fragments (180-200 bp and multiples thereof), and (2) cleavage of higher order chromatin structures to generate approximately 30-50 Kb fragments. To investigate this component of apoptosis and identify the nuclease(s) responsible, we have developed and utilized an in vitro assay that recapitulates the genomic destruction seen during apoptosis in vivo and allows the simultaneous analysis of both forms of DNA degradation from the same sample. Using this assay we evaluated the digestion patterns of several candidate apoptotic nucleases: DNase I, DNase II, and cyclophilin (NUC18) as well as the bacterial enzyme micrococcal nuclease (not thought to be involved in apoptosis). Chromatin degraded by DNase I formed a smear of DNA on conventional static-field agarose gels and approximately amp;30 - 50 Kb DNA fragments on pulsed field gels. In contrast, DNase II, at a physiologically relevant pH, had no effect on the integrity of HeLa chromatin in either analysis. Similar to DNase I, cyclophilin C produced only approximately 30-50 Kb DNA fragments but did not generate internucleosomal fragments. In contrast, micrococcal nuclease generated both oligonucleosomal and approximately 30-50 Kb DNA fragments. Nuclear extracts from glucocorticoid-treated apoptotic thymocytes generated oligonucleosomal DNA fragments and the larger approximately 30-50 Kb DNA fragments, fully recapitulating both types of apoptotic DNA degradation. Previously, differential sensitivity of nucleases to inhibition by Zn2+ was used to argue that two distinct enzymes mediate approximately 30-50 Kb DNA cleavage and internucleosomal DNA degradation. While, the nuclease activity present in thymocyte nuclear extracts was differentially sensitive to inhibition by Zn2+ during short term incubations it was not during prolonged digestions, suggesting that differences in DNA detection are likely to account for previous results. Together our studies show that none of the nucleases commonly associated with apoptosis could fully recapitulate the DNA degradation seen in vivo.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hughes, FM; Cidlowski, JA

Published Date

  • April 1997

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 4 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 200 - 208

PubMed ID

  • 16465229

Pubmed Central ID

  • 16465229

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1350-9047

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/sj.cdd.4400221


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England