Apoptosis is usually characterized by profound morphological nuclear changes. Chromatin undergoes a progressive condensation that eventually involves all the nucleus. At earlier stages chromatin appears as divided in compact and diffuse areas, while the nuclear pores disappear from the nuclear envelope that surrounds the compact areas, and cluster around diffuse chromatin. Here we have performed a morphometric study on the different chromatin areas of freeze-fractured apoptotic cell nuclei in order to investigate its morphometric and functional organization. We have found large portions of inactive chromatin aggregations corresponding to the dense cap-shaped patches, while domains of nucleosomic fibres have been identified in the diffuse chromatin areas. The correlation of the nucleosomic fibre/diffuse chromatin domain with the nuclear pore clusters is demonstrated, and its implications with a possible residual nuclear activity are discussed.
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