During sexual conjugation in Tetrahymena the micronucleus divides meiotically, producing four haploid nuclei. While one of these nuclei divides mitotically to yield two genetically identical gametic pronuclei, a stationary pronucleus and a migratory pronucleus, the remaining three haploid nuclei degenerate and disappear. Typically, they migrate to the posterior end of the cell where they remain as residual bodies until they disappear. In the present study we asked whether degenerating haploid nuclei share any properties with apoptotic nuclei. Specifically, we wondered whether they would be stained by “apofluor”, a combination of vital fluorescent indicators that differentially stains apoptotic nuclei in living cells. “Apofluor” includes acridine orange, which becomes trapped in acidic compartments and stains lysosomal bodies a brilliant orange-red, and Hoechst 33342, which binds to DNA and stains nuclei bright blue. With this dye combination, while ordinary nuclei stain blue, the apoptotic macronucleus stains first blue-green, then yellow, and finally orange. The progression in color is presumed to be due to the accumulation of protons in the apoptotic nucleus compartment. We found that three of the four post-meiotic haploid nuclei, those that are eliminated, were stained differentially green, then yellow, and then come to be indistinguishable from the orange lysosomal bodies. Differential staining can occur even while the nuclei are located at the anterior ends of the cells, and before the “viable” nucleus divides to form pronuclei. These results indicate that haploid nuclei in the process of degradation are differentially stained in living cells by “apofluor”, and that the differential staining occurs early in the elimination process. Further, since the degenerating haploid nuclei are stained by “apofluor” it is likely that they are degraded by a mechanism similar to the elimination of the apoptotic macronucleus.
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Vol. 47 • No. 5