Apoptosis plays a fundamental role in shaping normal hematopoiesis. We have investigated the relationship existing between susceptibility to apoptosis and lineage commitment in hemopoietic cells. The presence and degree of apoptosis were investigated in myeloid (HL-60 and K562), T (Jurkat and MOLT-4), and B (CESS and Raji) lymphoid cell lines by using a variety of techniques-transmission electron and light microscopy, flow cytometry and DNA gel electrophoresis. The major achievement of this study is that hematopoietic cells respond to different chemical (staurosporin, tiazofurin, camptothecin) and physical (hyperthermia or hypothermia) stimuli by apoptosis in a lineage-related way. Moreover, with respect to the methods used to detect apoptosis, a strong correlation was observed between the presence of the hypodiploid peak determined by flow cytometry and the DNA laddering evaluated by gel electrophoresis, but both techniques failed to demonstrate the presence of apoptosis in some cases. We conclude that cells of different hematopoietic lineages mostly show a lineage-related behaviour in their apoptotic response to different stimuli, suggesting that the lineage commitment and the stage of differentiation can confer different sensitivities to specific apoptotic stimuli. Moreover, morphological techniques still represent the most reliable approach to detect apoptosis in hemopoietic cells.
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