Scanning Microscopy


The importance of the morphological study of cell death has recently been emphasized by the recognition that the ultrastructural features of dying cells allow categorization of the death as either apoptosis or necrosis. This classification enables inferences to be drawn about the mechanism and biological significance of the death occurring in a particular set of circumstances.

In this study, Sertoli cell death induced in the immature testis of three and four day old rats by 5 Gy (500 rads) x-irradiation was described by light and transmission electron microscopy with the objective of categorizing the death as apoptosis or necrosis. The testes were examined 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 24 h after irradiation. Following irradiation, there was a wave of apoptosis of the Sertoli cells starting in three to four hours and reaching a peak between four and eight hours. At 24 hours, only 61% of the expected number of Sertoli cells remained.

These findings are in accord with recent ultrastructural reports that ionizing radiation induces cell death by apoptosis in rapidly proliferating cell populations. New insights into the pathogenesis of radiation-induced cell death might thus be expected to stem from future elucidation of the general molecular events involved in triggering apoptosis.

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