, Volume 99, Issue 4, pp 402-408

Neuronal nuclear DNA fragmentation in the aged canine brain: apoptosis or nuclear DNA fragility?

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Neuronal DNA fragmentation, as revealed with the method of in situ end-labeling of nuclear DNA fragmentation (TUNEL), has been reported in both the canine and human brains in normal ageing, and in some human age-related neurodegenerative diseases. These results have suggested that apoptosis plays an important role in age-related neuronal loss. It is not clear, however, whether the TUNEL method is highly specific for apoptosis, as DNA fragmentation also occurs in the late stages o necrosis. In this study we have examined 27 dogs aged from ¶8 to 18 years, to investigate the occurrence of nuclear DNA fragmentation. An autolysis index based on current histological criteria was assigned to each animal to evaluate the effects of autolysis on nuclear DNA integrity. Our results have shown that neuronal nuclear DNA fragmentation is frequent in aged dogs, although it is not accompanied by apoptotic morphology. Yet, a positive relation between TUNEL labelling and the degree of tissue autolysis was observed. In contrast, no TUNEL labelling was detected in young control dogs despite autolysis indices being similar to those in aged dogs. Taken together, these results suggest that neuronal nuclear DNA fragmentation is an age-related phenomenon, not due to apoptosis, whenever other factors render neuronal DNA more susceptible to autolytic fragmentation. We confirm the effect of autolysis in a subpopulation of neurons in the aged canine brain, inducing nuclear DNA fragmentation.