"Apoptotic" Myocytes in Infarct Area in Rabbit Hearts May Be Oncotic Myocytes With DNA Fragmentation: Analysis by Immunogold Electron Microscopy Combined With In Situ Nick End-Labeling

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Modes of cell death have been defined morphologically as apoptosis and oncosis. Infarcted myocytes have been reported to show apoptosis, as revealed by DNA fragmentation by DNA ladder and by in situ terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL) at the light microscopic level. We investigated whether TUNEL-positive infarcted myocytes have apoptotic or oncotic ultrastructures by using electron microscopic TUNEL, which can simultaneously observe the ultrastructure and DNA fragmentation of the same myocytes.


DNA fragmentation occurs in the myocytes that had already shown irreversibly oncotic, but not apoptotic, ultrastructures with ischemia and/or reperfusion. Therefore, DNA fragmentation itself does not always mean apoptosis, and so-called apoptotic infarcted myocytes may belong to a category of cell death other than apoptosis. (Circulation. 1998;98:1422-1430.)

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