Simultaneous PCNA and TUNEL labeling for testicular toxicity evaluation suggests that detection of apoptosis may be more sensitive than proliferation

M. R. D'andrea, M. Alicknavitch, R. G. Nagele, B. P. Damiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We previously reported a sensitive, quantitative immunohistochemical assay using formalin fixed, paraffin embedded rat testicular tissues to assess the degree of proliferation-related toxicity. An indexing scheme was devised based on the percentage of PCNA-positive cells positioned as a single layer along the basement membrane at the perimeter of similarly staged seminiferous tubules (PCNA index). We observed significant decreases in the PCNA index in testes of rats treated with an experimental compound that has been shown to produce testicular histopathology. This relatively simple assay provided a more quantitative and sensitive assessment of early testicular toxicity. A separate investigation of the rates of apoptosis in adjacent serial sections of affected rat seminiferous tubules showed that the incidence of apoptosis increased as the rate of proliferation of spermatogonial cells in the tubules decreased. Therefore, we developed a simultaneous PCNA immunohistochemical and TUNEL histochemical assay not only to reduce preparation and analysis time but also to allow determination of the relation between effects of various compounds producing testicular toxicity on the two cellular processes within the same tissue section. We show that an experimental compound known to cause testicular toxicity produced a concurrent reduction of proliferation and increase in apoptosis in seminiferous tubules. In dose-response studies, we show that increased apoptosis was apparent at lower doses that did not show a significant decrease in PCNA, thus indicating the greater sensitivity of the TUNEL indexing assay to detect early evidence of toxicity. Detailed analyses show the presence of TUNEL-positive cells in tubules with normal PCNA labeling, which suggests that an effect on apoptosis occurs prior to significant changes in cell proliferation in the meiotic pathway for this particular testicular toxicant. This single assay employing the simultaneous dual labeling of apoptosis and proliferation has potential utility for detecting early testicular toxicity of experimental compounds in preclinical development and shedding light on potential cellular mechanisms for toxicity, which should help identify compounds with reduced testicular toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-204
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnic and Histochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Histology
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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