The so called chromosome preparation is a procedure consisting of three strictly connected stages that enables to obtain chromosomes of quality suitable for cytogenetic analysis. Interestingly, experimental evidence strongly suggested that chromosome spreading and swelling (key processes that allow their counting and detailed structural analysis) are induced in the last fixative-evaporation stage by the interaction, mediated by acetic acid, between water from the environmental humidity, and the cytoplasmic matrix and the chromatin. However, since a considerable variation in the quality of chromosome preparations is observed, strongly depending on the environmental conditions in which the procedure takes place, a better comprehension of the mechanisms underlying chromosome preparation is required. To this aim, here we analysed intact lymphocytes before and at each stage of the chromosome preparation protocol by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, a technique widely used for the study not only of isolated biomolecules, but also of complex biological systems, such as whole cells. Interestingly, we found that the chromosome preparation protocol induces significant structural changes of cell proteins and DNA, in particular due to the interaction with acetic acid. Moreover, noteworthy, through the monitoring of changes in the water combination band between 2300 and 1800 cm-1, we provided evidence at molecular level of the crucial role of the bound water to the cytoplasmic matrix and to the chromatin in determining the chromosome spreading and swelling. Our FTIR results, therefore, underline the need to perform the last fixative-evaporation stage in standardized and optimized temperature and relative humidity conditions, thus providing chromosomes of high quality for the cytogenetic analysis that would lead in this way to more reliable results.
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