Programmed cell death (PCD) is an integral part of embryogenesis. In plant embryos, PCD functions during terminal differentiation and elimination of the temporary organ, suspensor, as well as during establishment of provascular system. Embryo abortion is another example of embryonic PCD activated at pathological situations and in polyembryonic seeds. Recent studies identified the sequence of cytological events leading to cellular self-destruction in plant embryos. As in most if not all the developmental cell deaths in plants, embryonic PCD is hallmarked by autophagic degradation of the cytoplasm and nuclear disassembly that includes breakdown of the nuclear envelope and DNA fragmentation. The optimized setup of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) allows the routine in situ analysis of nuclear DNA fragmentation in plant embryos. This chapter provides step-by-step procedure of how to process embryos for TUNEL and how to combine TUNEL with immunolocalization of the protein of interest.
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