Correlation of DNA fragmentation and chromatin condensation in apoptotic nuclei of the Ser 6 mouse retina.
The form of cell death known as apoptosis was first described in thymocytes. The hallmarks of apoptosis include chromatin condensation, membrane blebbing, formation of apoptotic bodies, and DNA fragmentation. DNA fragmentation can be visualized morphologically by the TdT-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) method that labels the cut DNA ends. However, at the light microscopic (LM) level, TUNEL-positive nuclei cannot readily be correlated with the other hallmarks of apoptosis. In the retina, chromatin condensation and DNA fragmentation are the major features of developmental cell death as well as photoreceptor degeneration. We performed TUNEL at the electron microscopic (EM) level, which permitted correlation of DNA fragmentation with chromatin condensation. We studied the retinas of transgenic mice (Ser 6) expressing the Pro347Ser mutant rhodopsin gene during developmental cell death (age 7 days) and photoreceptor degeneration (age 21 days). We found that 90% of the nuclei showing chromatin condensation were TUNEL positive as well. Our results demonstrated DNA fragmentation and chromatin condensation in the same cells as they underwent apoptosis in vivo, confirming the notion that these processes are concomitant events, and by implication, that activation of an endogenous endonuclease is an important step in the death process of retinal neurons.
Chang, GQ; Gaitan, A; Hao, Y; Wong, F
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