Overview

Apoptosis was originally detected because of the characteristic cell morphology, which allows apoptotic cells to be distinguished from healthy and necrotic cells. Although different cell types do not necessarily display all the hallmarks of apoptosis, there are similar features shared by cells undergoing apoptosis, which include shrinkage, blebbing, and chromatin condensation. Detection techniques based on apoptosis-specific biochemical changes, such as DNA fragmentation, exposure of phosphatidylserine (PS) at the outer plasma membrane, and proteolysis of proteins have been developed. In the next paragraphs, we describe protocols to study cyto-and nucleoskeletal proteins during apoptosis using two different apoptosis detection systems, i.e. the annexin V affinity assay to detect PS exposure and the TUNEL assay to detect DNA fragmentation.

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