Hahn, P. J., Lai, Z-W., Nevaldine, B., Schiff, N., Fiore, N. C. and Silverstone, A. E. Bcl2-Independent Chromatin Cleavage is a Very Early Event during Induction of Apoptosis in Mouse Thymocytes after Treatment with Either Dexamethasone or Ionizing Radiation. Radiat. Res. 160, 559–567 (2003).
We have quantified the emergence of early chromatin breaks during the signal transduction phase of apoptosis in mouse thymocytes after treatment with either ionizing radiation or dexamethasone. Dexamethasone at 1 μM can induce significant levels of DNA breaks (equivalent to the amount induced directly by 7.5 Gy ionizing radiation) within 0.5 h of treatment. The execution phase of apoptosis was not observed until 4–6 h after the same treatment. The presence of the Bcl2 transgene under the control of the p56lck promoter almost completely inhibited apoptosis up to 24 h after treatment, but it had virtually no effect on the early chromatin cleavage occurring in the first 6 h. Ionizing radiation induced chromatin cleavage both directly by damaging DNA and indirectly with kinetics similar to the induction of chromatin cleavage by dexamethasone. The presence of the Bcl2 transgene had no effect on the direct or indirect radiation-induced cleavage in the first 6 h, but after the first 6 h, the Bcl2 gene inhibited further radiation-induced chromatin cleavage. These results suggest that endonucleases are activated within minutes of treatment with either dexamethasone or ionizing radiation as part of the very early signal transduction phase of apoptosis, and prior to the irreversible commitment to cell death.