Cell-death assessment by fluorescent and nonfluorescent cytosolic and nuclear staining techniques

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Apoptosis, a genetically programmed cellular event leads to biochemical and morphological changes in cells. Alterations in DNA caused by several factors affect nucleus and ultimately the entire cell leading to compromised function of the organ and organism. DNA, a master regulator of the cellular events, is an important biomolecule with regards to cell growth, cell death, cell migration and cell differentiation. It is therefore imperative to develop the staining techniques that may lead to visualize the changes in nucleus where DNA is housed, to comprehend the cellular pathophysiology. Over the years a number of nuclear staining techniques such as propidium iodide, Hoechst-33342, 4’, 6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI), Acridine orange–Ethidium bromide staining, among others have been developed to assess the changes in DNA. Some nonnuclear staining techniques such as Annexin-V staining, which although does not stain DNA, but helps to identify the events that result from DNA alteration and leads to initiation of apoptotic cell death. In this review, we have briefly discussed some of the most commonly used fluorescent and nonfluorescent staining techniques that identify apoptotic changes in cell, DNA and the nucleus. These techniques help in differentiating several cellular and nuclear phenotypes that result from DNA damage and have been identified as specific to necrosis or early and late apoptosis as well as scores of other nuclear deformities occurring inside the cells.

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