Identification of the Hallmarks of Necroptosis and Ferroptosis by Transmission Electron Microscopy

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2020 Jun 30;527(3):839-844. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2020.04.127. Epub 2020 May 16.


Apoptosis is the prototype for a regulated form of cell death, but recent studies have revealed other types of regulated forms of cell death, including necroptosis and ferroptosis. The molecular mechanisms underlying the execution of these processes have been intensively investigated, yet the hallmarks of their morphology are not fully understood. Here, we report that electron lucent cytoplasm was a common feature of both necroptosis and ferroptosis, which was consistent with cytoplasmic vacuolization due to a defect in the cytoplasmic membrane integrity. Notably, the perinuclear space was dilated in necroptosis, but such dilation did not occur in ferroptosis. Cells undergoing ferroptosis, but not necroptosis, exhibited an electron lucent nucleus. We previously reported that one of the nuclear danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), high mobility group box (HMGB)1, is rapidly released from the nucleus to the extracellular spaces of cells undergoing necroptosis through the ruptured nuclear and cytoplasmic membrane. Via time-lapse imaging of cells stably expressing HMGB1 fused to a fluorescence protein, we found that HMGB1 was also released from the nucleus to the cytosol, and then eventually released into the extracellular spaces in cells undergoing ferroptosis. Thus, nuclear membrane damage was induced prior to cytoplasmic membrane rupture in ferroptosis. Thus, dilation of the perinuclear space and an electron lucent nucleus may be the hallmarks of necroptosis and ferroptosis, respectively.

Keywords: Ferroptosis; HMGB1; Necroptosis; Transmission electron microscopy.