Diagnosis of cell death by means of infrared spectroscopy

Udi Zelig, Joseph Kapelushnik, Raymond Moreh, Shaul Mordechai, Ilana Nathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy has been established as a fast spectroscopic method for biochemical analysis of cells and tissues. In this research we aimed to investigate FTIR's utility for identifying and characterizing different modes of cell death, using leukemic cell lines as a model system. CCRF-CEM and U937 leukemia cells were treated with arabinoside and doxorubicin apoptosis inducers, as well as with potassium cyanide, saponin, freezing-thawing, and H2O2 necrosis inducers. Cell death mode was determined by various gold standard biochemical methods in parallel with FTIR-microscope measurements. Both cell death modes exhibit large spectral changes in lipid absorbance during apoptosis and necrosis; however, these changes are similar and thus cannot be used to distinguish apoptosis from necrosis. In contrast to the above confounding factor, our results reveal that apoptosis and necrosis can still be distinguished by the degree of DNA opaqueness to infrared light. Moreover, these two cell death modes also can be differentiated by their infrared absorbance, which relates to the secondary structure of total cellular protein. In light of these findings, we conclude that, because of its capacity to monitor multiple biomolecular parameters, FTIR spectroscopy enables unambiguous and easy analysis of cell death modes and may be useful for biochemical and medical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2107-2114
Number of pages8
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - 7 Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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