Apoptosis in B-cell lymphomas and reactive lymphoid tissues always involves activation of caspase 3 as determined by a new in situ detection method

J Pathol. 2002 Mar;196(3):307-15. doi: 10.1002/path.1046.


In vitro studies indicate that in lymphomas, execution of apoptosis involves activation of effector caspases. To investigate activation of effector caspases in vivo in biopsy specimens of lymphomas, a new assay was developed using antibodies against active caspase 3 and p89, a protein fragment generated by caspase-specific cleavage of poly-ADP ribose polymerase (PARP). Using this assay, it was found that in B-cell lymphomas, levels of active caspase 3/p89-positive cells correlate strongly with morphologically recognizable apoptotic cells. The number of active caspase 3/p89-positive cells was low in follicular lymphomas and usually high in diffuse large cell lymphomas. Highest numbers were found in Burkitt lymphomas and in two biopsies of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas (DLCLs) obtained several days after initiation of therapy. It is concluded that apoptosis in reactive lymphoid tissues and in B-cell lymphomas always involves activation of effector caspase 3 and cleavage of one of the major effector caspase substrates, PARP-1. Moreover, levels of effector caspase activation are constantly low in low-grade follicular lymphomas and vary considerably in DLCL and Burkitt lymphoma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / enzymology
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / pathology
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / analysis*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Enzyme Precursors / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / enzymology
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / pathology*
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Lymph Nodes / enzymology
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / enzymology
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / pathology*
  • Lymphoma, Follicular / enzymology
  • Lymphoma, Follicular / pathology
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / enzymology
  • Lymphoma, Large B-Cell, Diffuse / pathology
  • Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Biomarkers
  • Enzyme Precursors
  • Proteins
  • PARP1 protein, human
  • Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases