Monitoring Apoptosis with Fluorescent Zn2+-Indicators

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Science's STKE  09 Mar 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 223, pp. pl7
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2232004pl7

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Apoptosis, a mechanism of programmed cell death that removes superfluous and harmful cells, is important both during development and in tissue homeostasis. Although Zn2+ is believed to be critical in apoptosis, the precise details of its role have yet to be elucidated. The macrocyclic Zn2+ ligand dansylamidoethylcyclen [L1•(HCl)4•(H2O)2], which is found primarily in a diprotonated form (H2L1), is cell-permeable and forms a strongly fluorescent 1:1 Zn2+ complex when Zn2+ entry into cells is facilitated by the Zn2+ ionophore pyrithione. H2L1 can be used to readily identify HeLa cells undergoing the early stages of etoposide-induced apoptosis because of the increased level of free Zn2+ that occurs at this time. The selectivity of H2L1 for the detection of apoptotic cells was verified by a conventional probe for apoptosis, annexin V-Cy3. Here, we describe methods for detecting apoptotic cells with H2L1 and for comparing detection of apoptosis with H2L1 to detection with annexin V-Cy3 and Zinquin.

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