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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Autophagic and apoptotic types of programmed cell death exhibit different fates of cytoskeletal filaments.

Programmed cell death comprises several subtypes, as revealed by electron microscopy. Apoptosis or type I programmed cell death is characterized by condensation of cytoplasm and preservation of organelles, essentially without autophagic degradation. Autophagic cell death or type II programmed cell death exhibits extensive autophagic degradation of Golgi apparatus, polyribosomes and endoplasmatic reticulum, which precedes nuclear destruction. In the present study, we analysed the fate of cytokeratin and F-actin during autophagic cell death in the human mammary carcinoma cell line MCF-7 because recent studies suggest that an intact cytoskeleton is necessary for autophagocytosis. Programmed cell death was induced by 10(-)(6) M tamoxifen. For quantitative light microscopic analysis, autophagic vacuoles were visualized by monodansyl cadaverin, which stains autophagic vacuoles as distinct dot-like structures. In control cultures, the number of monodansylcadaverin-positive cells did not exceed 2%. Tamoxifen induced a dramatic increase 2-4 days after treatment to a maximum of 60% monodansylcadaverin-positive cells between days 5 and 7. Cell death, as indicated by nuclear condensation, increased more gradually to about 18% of all cells on day 7. In cells with pyknotic nuclei cytokeratin appeared disassembled but retained its immunoreactivity; actin was still polymerized to filaments, as demonstrated by its reaction with phalloidin. Western blot analysis showed no significant cleavage of the monomeric cytokeratin fraction. For comparison, apoptotic or type I cell death was studied using the human colon cancer cell HT29/HI1 treated with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor tyrphostin A25 as a model. Cleavage of cytokeratin was already detectable in early morphological stages of apoptosis. F-actin was found to depolymerize; its globular form could be detected by antibodies; western blot analysis revealed no products of proteolytic cleavage. In conclusion, in our model of apoptosis, early stages are associated with depolymerization of actin and degradation of intermediate filaments. In contrast, during autophagic cell death intermediate and microfilaments are redistributed, but largely preserved, even beyond the stage of nuclear collapse. The present data support the concept that autophagic cell death is a separate entity of programmed cell death that is distinctly different from apoptosis.[1]


  1. Autophagic and apoptotic types of programmed cell death exhibit different fates of cytoskeletal filaments. Bursch, W., Hochegger, K., Torok, L., Marian, B., Ellinger, A., Hermann, R.S. J. Cell. Sci. (2000) [Pubmed]
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