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  • Experimental Oncology
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Apoptosis after gamma irradiation. Is it an important cell death modality?


Apoptosis and necrosis are two different forms of cell death that can be induced by cytotoxic stress, such as ionizing radiation. We have studied the importance of apoptotic death induced after treatment with 6 Gy of gamma-irradiation in a panel of eight human tumour cell lines of different radiosensitivities. Three different techniques based on the detection of DNA fragmentation have been used, a qualitative one--DNA ladder formation --and two quantitative approaches--in situ tailing and comet assay. No statistically significant relationship between the two quantitative assays was found (r= 0.327, P = 0.159) so these methods seem to show different aspects of the process of cell death. The presence of the DNA ladder related well to the end-labelling method in that the least amount of end labelling was seen in samples in which necrotic degradation rather than apoptotic ladders were seen. However, as the results obtained by the comet assay are not in agreement with the DNA ladder experiments, we suggest that the distinction between the degraded DNA produced by apoptosis and necrosis may be difficult by this technique. Finally, although apoptosis has been proposed to be dependent on p53 functionality, and this may explain differences in cellular radiosensitivity, no statistically significant relationship was found between these parameters and apoptosis in the eight cell lines studied.

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Siles, E., Villalobos, M., Jones, L. et al. Apoptosis after gamma irradiation. Is it an important cell death modality?. Br J Cancer 78, 1594–1599 (1998).

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