Background & aims: Mechanisms of cell death in human and experimental pancreatitis remain poorly understood. The aim of this study was to determine the mechanisms of cell death, apoptosis vs. necrosis, in models of pancreatitis induced by pancreatic duct ligation in the opossum and rat.
Methods: Morphological changes were shown by light and electron microscopy, chromatin condensation and DNA breaks were assessed using Hoechst 33258 staining and DNA nickend labeling, and DNA fragmentation was characterized b gel electrophoresis.
Results: Cells with morphology of both necrosis and apoptosis were found in pancreata from duct-ligated animals; however, the apoptosis-necrosis ratio was different for the opossum and the rat. Both apoptotic and necrotic cells stained for breaks in DNA, suggesting that both apoptosis and necrosis are associated with DNA fragmentation and that DNA end labeling cannot specifically detect apoptotic cells. No significant oligonucleosomal DNA fragmentation was found in pancreas from duct-ligated animals, although the endonuclease responsible for oligonucleosomal DNA fragmentation was present in pancreatic nuclei.
Conclusions: Duct ligation resulted predominantly in apoptosis in the rat and necrosis in the opossum. The differences in types of cell death in the two models may result from differences in inflammatory cell infiltration.