Multiple fluorescence and reflectance simultaneous detection by confocal microscopy of HaeIII digested DNA sequences

Luca M. Neri, Spartaco Santi, Caterina Cinti, Patrizia Sabatelli, Aurelio Valmori, Cristina Capanni, Silvano Capitani, Liborio Stuppia, Nadir M. Maraldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human metaphase chromosomes were isolated and digested in situ with HaeIII restriction enzyme to detect cytosine and guanine-rich sequences (CpG islands), which are known to be associated with most of the mammalian genes. Digested DNA was reconstructed by in situ nick translation employing digoxigenin-labeled nucleotides. The DNA sequences were revealed by antibodies conjugated either with fluorescein isothiocyanate or 1-nm colloidal gold. DNA was counterstained with propidium iodide. A sensitive, high resolution method for visualizing three signals, simultaneously excited by a single argon laser line of 488 nm has been developed. The green fluorescence of fluorescein isothiocyanate was detected in combination with the red fluorescence of propidium iodide, and the third signal was imaged by employing the reflectance mode of the confocal microscope after silver enhancement of the gold beads. The high reflectance intensity, the accurate localization and the non-fading properties of colloidal gold made the reaction a valuable tool for the detection of antigens and, as a consequence, of specific DNA sequences in chromosome preparations. Overlaying of three signals allowed the simultaneous observation of distinct structures: total DNA, as well as fluorescein- and gold-labeled sequences after in situ nick translation, or total DNA and centromeric sequences of two different chromosome pairs (17 and X) after in situ hybridization. The use of HaeIII restriction enzyme that cut CpG islands combined with in situ nick translation identified the chromosome sites where active, inactive or housekeeping genes can be located. In chromosomes, the fluorescent reaction pattern showed large areas of labeling, while a more defined staining, often organized in spot pairs that resembled an R-like banding, was detected when the reflected mode was used. These results are confirmed by the observation that R-like bands actually are multiple symmetrical spots localized on sister chromatids. In addition, some chromosomes, and in particular 1 and 9, displayed a C-negative banding due to the negativity of the centromeric areas. Reflectance confocal scanning microscopy and in situ nick translation represent a powerful tool to study the in situ genome organization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-128
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Cell Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • Chromosomes
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Cytogenetics
  • Fluorescence
  • Gold immunolabeling
  • In situ nick translation
  • Reflectance microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology


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