In vitro measurement of nuclear permeability changes in apoptosis

Anal Biochem. 2003 Jul 15;318(2):244-53. doi: 10.1016/s0003-2697(03)00242-2.


In the eukaryotic cell, exchange of biomolecules between nucleus and cytoplasm is a highly regulated process which responds sensitively to changes of the environment. One well-known cellular response to environmental challenges is cell death by apoptosis. In fact, apoptosis has been shown to affect the nucleocytoplasmic transport machinery, in particular the nuclear pore, by modulating its size exclusion limit for passive diffusion. The underlying molecular factors are still unknown, mainly because of the lack of a suitable system to detect and quantitate the apoptotic effects on the nuclear pore. Here we present an assay that was designed to measure alterations of the permeability of the nuclear envelope under apoptotic conditions. The assay is based on the well-established technique of selective permeabilization of the plasma membrane with digitonin and allows assessment of permeability changes in nonfixed samples. It comprises a computer program, called Nuclear Permeability Assay, for the quantitation of the nuclear fluorescence signal, which may be generally employed for the evaluation of in vitro transport systems using semipermeabilized cells, such as assays for nuclear import and export.

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Apoptosis*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Nuclear Envelope / metabolism*
  • Permeability
  • Software