Journal article Open Access

From the nucleus to the plasma membrane: translocation of the nuclear proteins histone H3 and lamin B1 in apoptotic microglia

Klein, Barbara; Lütz-Meindl, Ursula; Kerschbaum, Hubert H

Nuclear autoantibodies have been found in patients with autoimmune diseases. One possible source for nuclear antigens are apoptotic cells. However, the mechanism of how apoptotic cells make nuclear factors accessible to the immune system is still elusive. In the present study, we investigated the redistribution of nuclear components after UV irradiation in the microglial cell line BV-2 and in primary mouse microglia at the ultrastructural level. We used transmission electron microscopy (TEM)-coupled electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) to measure phosphorus as an indicator for nucleic acids and immunogold labeling to detect histone H3 and lamin B1 in apoptotic cells. EELS revealed elevated concentrations of phosphorus in nuclear and cytoplasmic condensed chromatin compared to the remaining cytoplasm. Furthermore, immunolabeling of lamin B1 and histone H3 was detected in apoptotic microglia not only in the nucleus, but also in the cytoplasm, and even at the plasma membrane. Confocal images of apoptotic microglia, which were not previously permeabilized, showed patches of histone H3 and lamin B1 labeling at the cell surface. The pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK (carbobenzoxy-valyl-alanyl-aspartyl-[O-methyl]-fluoromethylketone) prevented the occurrence of cytoplasmic condensed chromatin in apoptotic microglia. Our findings indicate that nuclear components leak from the nucleus into the cytoplasm in apoptotic microglia. At least histone H3 and lamin B1 reach the cell surface, this may promote autoreactive processes.

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