Immunodetection of histone epitopes correlates with early stages of apoptosis in activated human peripheral T lymphocytes

Susan J. Zunino, Manoj K. Singh, Julia Bass, Louis J. Picker

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29 Scopus citations


By coupling intracellular staining with terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated labeling of internucleosomal DNA strand breaks in a flow cytometric assay, we observed a strong correlation between apoptosis- associated DNA strand breaks and immunoreactivity with the monoclonal antibody (MAb) B-F6 in activated human peripheral blood T lymphocytes (PBTs). Although MAb B-F6 has been reported to be specific for the cytokine interleukin-6, Western blot analysis of activated PBT lysates revealed that the predominant protein band detected by this MAb was 17 kd (p17), distinct from the 23-kd core protein and 26- to 30-kd mature glycosylated forms of interleukin-6. Immunoaffinity isolation and amino-terminal amine acid sequence analysis of p17 revealed identity with the histone H2B, a finding confirmed by Western blot analysis of purified histones and by similar staining of activated PBTs with an unrelated anti-histone MAb. Neither histone staining nor DNA strand breakage was observed in freshly isolated PBTs; however, after T cell activation, histone immunoreactivity appeared to precede the appearance of DNA strand breaks, with both increasing to a maximal level by day 3 after activation. Two-parameter confocal immunofluorescence microscopy of histone and DNA staining confirmed a lack of histone immunoreactivity in viable cells and demonstrated co-localization of histone epitopes with abnormally clumped chromatin in apoptotic cells. These data indicate that alteration of histone epitope accessibility is a marker of early apoptosis and suggest that multiparameter flow cytometric analysis of intracellular epitopes may be a powerful tool in the elucidation of intracellular mechanisms of apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-663
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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