BACKGROUND: The end of eukaryotic chromosomes terminates with nucleoprotein structures called telomeres. They insure several functions including capping the end of the chromosomes, ensuring their stability and protecting them from end-to-end fusion and preventing the activation of the DNA damage checkpoints. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A flow-FISH methodology, i.e. quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization (Q-FISH) in combination with flow cytometry, has been developed in our laboratory in order to estimate telomere length in three human cancer cell lines: K-562 (chronic myelogenous leukaemia), IM-9 (multiple myeloma) and 1301 (T cell lymphoblastic leukaemia). Telomeres were visualised after hybridisation with FITC-labelled PNA (Peptide Nucleic Acid) probes. We evaluated the most critical steps of the flow-FISH protocol to ensure reproducibility. Different methodological set ups were compared. Three fixation procedures (ethanol 80%, methanol 80% and formaldehyde 4%) were tested besides different fixation times (15 min and 60 min) as well as hybridization times (2 h and overnight). For each of these protocols the following parameters were compared: forward scatter (related to the cell size), side scatter (related to the cell granularity), DNA (FL3 and FL4 fluorescence) and PNA content (FL1 fluorescence) using an EPICS XL flow cytometer. RESULTS: Regarding the fixation procedures, methanol proved to be the best, followed by ethanol and formaldehyde, with respect to the efficiency to measure the different parameters cited above. Indeed, fixation using methanol gave the optimal PNA signal compared to using ethanol and formaldehyde in two of the studied cell lines (K-562 and 1301); the difference observed was highly significant in the 1301 cell line. The duration of fixation did not show significant interference in the reproducibility of the results for the three cell lines studied. An overnight hybridization appeared to be more effective when compared to the 2-h hybridization in the case of the K-562 cell line. CONCLUSION: The most important steps of the flow-FISH technique, namely the fixative procedure, as well as the hybridization and the fixation times, were investigated. Considering the latter, suitable protocols were set up for routine and fast telomere length estimation in the cancer cell lines.
|Published - Mar 2005