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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Deciphering the plasma membrane hallmarks of apoptotic cells: Phosphatidylserine transverse redistribution and calcium entry

M Carmen Martínez12 and Jean-Marie Freyssinet12*

Author affiliations

1 Institut d'Hématologie et d'Immunologie, Faculté de Médecine, Université Louis Pasteur, 4, rue Kirschleger, 67085, Strasbourg, France

2 Unité 143 INSERM, Hôpital de Bicêtre, 94276, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2001, 2:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-2-20

Published: 17 October 2001



During apoptosis, Ca2+-dependent events participate in the regulation of intracellular and morphological changes including phosphatidylserine exposure in the exoplasmic leaflet of the cell plasma membrane. The occurrence of phosphatidylserine at the surface of specialized cells, such as platelets, is also essential for the assembly of the enzyme complexes of the blood coagulation cascade, as demonstrated by hemorrhages in Scott syndrome, an extremely rare genetic deficiency of phosphatidylserine externalization, without other apparent pathophysiologic consequences. We have recently reported a reduced capacitative Ca2+ entry in Scott cells which may be part of the Scott phenotype.


Taking advantage of these mutant lymphoblastoid B cells, we have studied the relationship between this mode of Ca2+ entry and phosphatidylserine redistribution during apoptosis. Ca2+ ionophore induced apoptosis in Scott but not in control cells. However, inhibition of store-operated Ca2+ channels led to caspase-independent DNA fragmentation and decrease of mitochondrial membrane potential in both control and Scott cells. Inhibition of cytochrome P450 also reduced capacitative Ca2+ entry and induced apoptosis at comparable extents in control and Scott cells. During the apoptotic process, both control and more markedly Scott cells externalized phosphatidylserine, but in the latter, this membrane feature was however dissociated from several other intracellular changes.


The present results suggest that different mechanisms account for phosphatidylserine transmembrane migration in cells undergoing stimulation and programmed death. These observations testify to the plasticity of the plasma membrane remodeling process, allowing normal apoptosis even when less fundamental functions are defective.