The present protocol provides a method for DNA separation of fragmented and intact DNA fractions and for their analysis by agarose gel electrophoresis. In apoptotic cells specific DNA cleavage becomes evident in electrophoresis analysis as a typical ladder pattern due to multiple DNA fragments. However, although this protocol is simple and generally able to provide good results, it is only qualitative because of its limitations in DNA recovery and solubilization. In order to obtain a cleaner DNA, other methods for DNA preparation are required (in some cases use of proteinase K for deproteinization is recommended).
2. Centrifuge cells at 200xg at 4°C for 10 min.
3. Transfer supernatants carefully in new tubes labeled S (supernatant).
4. Add to the pellet in tubes B 0.5 ml of TTE solution and vortex vigorously. This procedure allows the release of fragmented chromatin from nuclei, after cell lysis (due to the presence of Triton X-100 in the TTE solution) and disruption of the nuclear structure (following Mg++ chelation by EDTA in the TTE solution).
5. To separate fragmented DNA from intact chromatin, centrifuge tubes B at 20,000xg for 10 min at 4°C.
6. Carefully transfer supernatants in new tubes labeled T (top).
7. Add to the small pellet in tubes B 0.5 ml of TTE solution.
8. Add to the 0.5 ml volume present in tubes B, S and T, 0.1 ml of ice-cold 5M NaCl and vortex vigorously. The addition of the salt should be able to remove histons from DNA.
9. Add to each tube 0.7 ml of ice-cold isopropanol and vortex vigorously.
10. Allow precipitation to proceed overnight at -20°C. This step can be shortened by putting samples in a bath of ethanol/dry ice for 1 hr.
11. After precipitation, recover DNA by pelleting for 10 min at 20,000xg at 4°C.
12. Discard supernatants by aspiration or by rapidly inverting tubes and carefully remove any drops or fluid remaining adherent to the wall of the tube with a paper towel corner. This can be a critical step because the pellet could be loosen and transparent, hard to be seen.
13. Rinse the pellets by adding to each tube 0.5-0.7 ml of ice-cold 70% ethanol.
14. Centrifuge tubes at 20,000xg for 10 min at 4°C.
15. Discard supernatants by aspiration or by rapidly inverting tubes. Carefully remove any drops or fluid remaining adherent to the wall of the tube by inverting tubes over an absorbent paper towel for 30 min. Let air dry the tubes in upright position for at least 3 hr before proceeding.
16. Dissolve DNA by adding to each tube 20-50 m l of TE solution and place the tubes at 37°C for 1-3 days. The redissolution of DNA may be a crical step, in fact it depends on the DNA quantity and size present in the samples. Thus, the non-fragmented DNA contained in the B tubes, may need higher volumes of TE and longer incubation times in order to be resuspended.
17. Mix the samples of DNA with loading buffer by adding 10x loading buffer to a final concentration of 1x. The addition of loading buffer to samples allows to load gel wells more easily and to monitor the run of samples.
18. Place samples in a heating block at 65°C for 10 min and immediately load 10-20 m l of them to each well of a standard 1% agarose gel containing ethidium bromide 0.5 mg/ml. Appropriate DNA molecular weight markers should be included. Ethidium bromide is a potential carcinogen: wear gloves and handle with care.
19. Run the electrophoresis in standard TBE buffer after setting the voltage to the desired level. During electrophoresis it is possible to monitor the migration of samples by following the migration of bromophenol blue dye contained in the loading buffer.
20. Stop the electrophoresis when the dye reaches about 3 cm from the end of the gel.
21. To visualize DNA, place the gel on a UV transilluminator and take photos of the gel. Wear eye and skin protection when UV are on.
Apoptosis is an innate mechanism of eukariotic cell suicide which plays a major role in many physiological and pathological processes. Therefore, the definition of cellular regulatory mechanisms and biochemical processes involved in apoptosis is an important challenge from both theoretical and applied points of view.
During apoptosis a series of reorganisation occur in the cell: chromatin condensation, loss of cell volume and membrane blebbing are some of the most evident morphological changes of apoptotic cells. Although the molecular mechanisms leading to such changes are not completely known, many of them seem to proceed in parallel with biochemical events. This is the case, for example, of chromatin condensation and nuclear envelop breakdown. In fact, in parallel with them occurs DNA fragmentation, a biochemical hallmark of apoptosis in the majority of cells. Responsible for DNA cleavage is believed to be an endogenous Ca++- and Mg++-dependent endonuclease able to break double strand DNA at internucleosomal sites. Therefore, apoptotic DNA cleavage results in characteristic fragments of oligonucleosomal size (180-200 bp). Such phenomenum, described for the first time by Wyllie (1980), can be visualized by an agarose gel electrophoresis analysis. The present protocol provides a method for qualitative determination of DNA fragmentation.
3.2. Critical parameters
Moreover, this method is not recommended when different behaviour in DNA fragmentation following apoptotic stimuli is described. In fact, in some cell types where random double-stranded or rare single-stranded DNA fragmentation occur, it cannot be detected by agarose gel electrophoresis assay.
Sometimes, in particular with cells obtained from ex vivo cultures (e.g. thymocytes and lymphocytes), an high background of spontaneous DNA fragmentation could be observed.
3.4. Anticipated results
2. Duke, R.C., and Cohen, J.J. 1986. Endogenous endonuclease-induced DNA fragmentation: an early event in cell-mediated cytolisis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 80: 6361.
3. Arends, M.J., Morris, R.J., and Wyillie, A.H. 1990. Apoptosis. The role of the endonuclease. Am. J. Pathol. 136: 593.
4. Bortner, C.D., Oldenburg, N.B.E., and Cidlowski, J.A. 1995. The role of DNA fragmentation in apoptosis. Trends Cell Biol. 5: 21.
5. Sellins, K.S., and Cohen, J.J. 1991. Cytotoxic T lymphocytes induce different types of DNA damage in target cells of different origin. J. Immunol. 147: 795.
| || || |
|RPMI-1640 medium supplemented with 5% heat-inactivated fetal calf serum (FCS), 2 mM L-glutamine, 25 mM HEPES buffer, 50 µg/ml gentamicin sulfate. L-glutamine is labile, thus it does not last at 4°C for more than one day.|| |
|TE buffer||10 mM Tris.Cl pH 7.4 (prepare by diluting stock solution), 1 mM EDTA.|| |
|Tris.Cl stock solution (1 M)||Dissolve 121 g Tris base in 800 ml H2O, adjust to desired pH with concentrated HCl, mix and add H2O to 1 liter. |
CAUTION: Adjust pH of the Tris buffer at the same temperature at which it will be used, as the pH varies with temperature (about 0.028 pH units per 1°C).
|Loading buffer 10x |
|Prepare concentrated stock solution of loading buffer by adding the following reagents at the indicated final concentrations: 20% Ficoll 400, 0.1 M EDTA (pH 8.0), 1% SDS, 0.25% bromophenol blue, 0.25% xylene cyanol (optional).|| |
|TBE buffer stock solution |
|Dissolve in 800 ml of H2O 108 g Tris base (89 mM), 55 g boric acid (89 mM), 40 ml 0.5M EDTA, pH 8.0 (2mM); bring to 1 liter with H2O. Use diluted 1:10.|| |
|Ethidium bromide stock solution||Dissolve 50 mg of ethidium bromide in 100 ml of H2O. Use diluted 1:1000.|| |
|Agarose gel||Dissolve 1% agarose in 1x TBE buffer (in the presence of 0.5 m g/ml ethidium bromide) by heating until melted.|| |
Appendix 2 (A2): Reagents
Gentamicin sulfate, solution G-1522
L-glutamin 20 mM, 200 ml 25030-024
EDTA disodium salt, dihydrate E-5134
TRIZMA base (Tris) T-1503
Triton X-100 115291A
Sodium Chloride S-9888
Isopropyl alcohol 412421
Lauryl sulphate, sodium salt (SDS) L-4390
Ficoll 400 F-4375
Bromophenol blue B-5525
Xylene Cyanol X-4126
Boric acid B-0394
Ethidium bromide E-7637
DNA molecular weight markers IX 1449460
Agarose standard 18054
Polaroid film type 667 F-4638
Appendix 3 (A3): Equipment
Multi-block Heater Model 2094
Lab-line Instruments, Inc.
Refrigerated cell centrifuge Model GS-56R
Refrigerated microcentrifuge Model 5417R
Vortex Model MT 135
Water bath Model 1002
Gel electrophoresis apparatus Model Horizon 58
Power supply Model 1000/500
UV Transilluminator Model T2202
Direct screen instant camera Model DS34