Cleavage of Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase measured in situ in individual cells: relationship to DNA fragmentation and cell cycle position during apoptosis

Exp Cell Res. 2000 Feb 25;255(1):125-32. doi: 10.1006/excr.1999.4796.


Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), a nuclear enzyme involved in DNA repair, is a target of caspases during apoptosis: its cleavage onto 89- and 24-kDa fragments is considered to be a hallmark of the apoptotic mode of cell death. Another hallmark is the activation of endonuclease which targets internucleosomal DNA. The aim of the present study was to reveal cell cycle phase specificity as well as the temporal and sequence relationships of PARP cleavage vis-à-vis DNA fragmentation in two model systems of apoptosis, one induced by DNA damage via cell treatment with camptothecin (CPT) (mitochondria-induced pathway) and another by the cytotoxic ligand tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) (cell surface death receptor pathway). PARP cleavage was detected immunocytochemically using antibody which recognizes its 89-kDa fragment (PARP p89) while DNA fragmentation was assayed by in situ labeling of DNA strand breaks. The frequency and extent of PARP cleavage as well as DNA fragmentation were measured by mutiparameter flow and laser scanning cytometry. PARP cleavage, selective to S phase cells, was detected 90 min after administration of CPT. PARP cleavage in the cells treated with TNF-alpha was not selective to any cell cycle phase and was seen already after 30 min. DNA fragmentation trailed PARP cleavage by about 30 min and showed a similar pattern of cell cycle specificity. PARP p89 was present in nuclear chromatin but at least in the early phase of apoptosis it did not colocalize with DNA strand breaks. The rate of cleavage of PARP molecules in individual cells whether induced by CPT or TNF-alpha was rapid as reflected by the paucity of cells with a mixture of cleaved and noncleaved PARP molecules. In contrast, DNA fragmentation proceeded stepwise before reaching the maximal number of DNA strand breaks. Although time windows for PARP cleavage vs DNA fragmentation were different at early stages of apoptosis, a good overall correlation between the cytometric assays of apoptotic cells identification based on these events was observed in both CPT- and TNF-alpha-treated cultures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis* / drug effects
  • Camptothecin / pharmacology
  • Cell Cycle*
  • Cycloheximide / pharmacology
  • DNA Fragmentation*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism*
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Topoisomerase I Inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Topoisomerase I Inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Cycloheximide
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • Camptothecin