The morphological features of cell undergoing programmed cell death is well known and has been widely described in a number of experimental models with a variety of apoptotic triggering agents. Despite the similar cell behaviour, underlying molecular events seem variable and only partially understood. A multiple approach appears crucial to better clarify the phenomenon. The first technique, DNA gel electrophoresis, allows the identification of fragmented DNA and has been long considered the hallmark of apoptosis. Different patterns of DNA cleavage, which can be identified by conventional or "pulsed-field gel" electrophoresis, are presented and discussed. "In situ" labelling methods are also described both with terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase and DNA polymerase I, aimed at the study of the distribution of DNA cleavage areas. Flow cytometry is also proposed and different technical approaches, based on different laser utilizations, are discussed. Ultrastructural analysis, allowing the study of apoptotic cell details, is finally considered.
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