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A new way of measuring apoptosis by absolute quantitation of inter-nucleosomally fragmented genomic DNA.

Hooker DJ, Mobarok M, Anderson JL, Rajasuriar R, Gray LR, Ellett AM, Lewin SR, Gorry PR, Cherry CL

  • Journal Nucleic acids research

  • Published 28 Apr 2012

  • Volume 40

  • ISSUE 15

  • Pagination e113

  • DOI 10.1093/nar/gks334


Several critical events of apoptosis occur in the cell nucleus, including inter-nucleosomal DNA fragmentation (apoptotic DNA) and eventual chromatin condensation. The generation of apoptotic DNA has become a biochemical hallmark of apoptosis because it is a late 'point of no return' step in both the extrinsic (cell-death receptor) and intrinsic (mitochondrial) apoptotic pathways. Despite investigators observing apoptotic DNA and understanding its decisive role as a marker of apoptosis for over 20 years, measuring it has proved elusive. We have integrated ligation-mediated PCR and qPCR to design a new way of measuring apoptosis, termed ApoqPCR, which generates an absolute value for the amount (picogram) of apoptotic DNA per cell population. ApoqPCR's advances over current methods include a 1000-fold linear dynamic range yet sensitivity to distinguish subtle low-level changes, measurement with a 3- to 4-log improvement in sample economy, and capacity for archival or longitudinal studies combined with high-throughput capability. We demonstrate ApoqPCR's utility in both in vitro and in vivo contexts. Considering the fundamental role apoptosis has in vertebrate and invertebrate health, growth and disease, the reliable measurement of apoptotic nucleic acid by ApoqPCR will be of value in cell biology studies in basic and applied science.