Stabilization of apoptotic cells: generation of zombie cells

Cell Death Dis. 2014 Aug 14;5(8):e1369. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2014.332.


Apoptosis is characterized by degradation of cell components but plasma membrane remains intact. Apoptotic microtubule network (AMN) is organized during apoptosis forming a cortical structure beneath plasma membrane that maintains plasma membrane integrity. Apoptotic cells are also characterized by high reactive oxygen species (ROS) production that can be potentially harmful for the cell. The aim of this study was to develop a method that allows stabilizing apoptotic cells for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. By using a cocktail composed of taxol (a microtubule stabilizer), Zn(2+) (a caspase inhibitor) and coenzyme Q10 (a lipid antioxidant), we were able to stabilize H460 apoptotic cells in cell cultures for at least 72 h, preventing secondary necrosis. Stabilized apoptotic cells maintain many apoptotic cell characteristics such as the presence of apoptotic microtubules, plasma membrane integrity, low intracellular calcium levels and mitochondrial polarization. Apoptotic cell stabilization may open new avenues in apoptosis detection and therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Apoptosis* / drug effects
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Camptothecin / toxicity
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Caspase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Paclitaxel / toxicity
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism
  • Plasma Membrane Calcium-Transporting ATPases / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Ubiquinone / analogs & derivatives
  • Ubiquinone / pharmacology
  • Zinc / pharmacology


  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Ubiquinone
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Caspase 3
  • Plasma Membrane Calcium-Transporting ATPases
  • coenzyme Q10
  • Zinc
  • Paclitaxel
  • Calcium
  • Camptothecin