Caspases, a group of cysteine-activated aspartate-directed proteases, play an integral role in the execution of programmed cell death or apoptosis. In the cellular caspase cascade, the processing of native proenzymes into activated forms of downstream, effector caspases is dependent on the activation of initiator caspases-8 and -9. We describe a staining procedure for immunofluorescence-based analysis of activation of caspase-8 and -9 during pharmacologically induced apoptosis in primary cultures of human umbilical vein-derived endothelial cells and in an established line of HeLa cells. Using cleavage site-directed antibodies, specific intracellular detection for cleaved fragments of caspase-8 and -9 was accomplished during apoptosis induced by staurosporine and etoposide. The population of cells displaying morphological signs of apoptosis, evidence for DNA strand breaks by TUNEL analysis, and positive staining for active forms of caspase-8 and caspase-9 increased with the duration of treatment, suggesting activation of initiator caspases in correlation with the onset and progression of apoptosis. The application of immunocytochemical staining procedures for quick and specific in situ detection may effectively aid the identification of participating upstream caspases and elucidation of complex apoptosis signaling mechanisms.
- Endothelial cells
- HeLa cells
- TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated digoxigenin-dUTP nick-end labeling)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Medical Laboratory Technology
- Cell Biology