Detection of apoptosis and necrosis in normal human lung cells using 1H NMR spectroscopy

Chwen Ming Shih, Wun Chang Ko, Liang Yo Yang, Chien Ju Lin, Jui Sheng Wu, Tsui Yun Lo, Shwu Huey Wang, Chien Tsu Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This study aimed to detect apoptosis and necrosis in MRC-5, a normal human lung cell line, by using noninvasive proton nuclear magnetic resonance ( 1H NMR). Live MRC-5 cells were processed first for 1H NMR spectroscopy; subsequently their types and the percentage of cell death were assessed on a flow cytometer. Cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg) induced apoptosis and necrosis in MRC-5 cells, respectively, as revealed by phosphatidylserine externalization on a flow cytometer. The spectral intensity ratio of methylene (CH2) resonance (at 1.3 ppm) to methyl (CH3) resonance (at 0.9 ppm) was directly proportional to the percentage of apoptosis and strongly and positively correlated with PI staining after Cd treatment (r2 = 0.9868, P <0.01). In contrast, this ratio only increased slightly within 2-h Hg treatment, and longer Hg exposure failed to produce further increase. Following 2-h Hg exposure, the spectral intensity of choline resonance (at 3.2 ppm) was abolished, but this phenomenon was absent in Cd-induced apoptosis. These findings together demonstrate that 1H NMR is a novel tool with a quantitative potential to distinguish apoptosis from necrosis as early as the onset of cell death in normal human lung cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-496
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Apoptosis
  • Cadmium
  • Mercury
  • Necrosis
  • NMR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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