• electron probe X-ray microanalysis;
  • intracellular ions;
  • apoptosis;
  • prostate cancer;
  • androgen-independent;
  • etoposide

Apoptosis comprises a critical intracellular defense mechanism against tumourigenic growth. We have been interested in the relationship between morphological changes and intracellular concentration of several cations after etoposide-induced apoptosis in androgen-independent prostate cancer cells. SEM and X-ray microanalysis were performed on freeze-dried PC3 cells after etoposide treatment, and correlated with the morphological features observed after examination by light and fluorescence microscopy. Cell viability assays were also performed. A significant decrease in intracellular Cland K+and a progressive increase in Mg2+and Na+were observed, with parallel changes in cellular volume as cells passed through three morphological stages of apoptosis. The use of EPXRMA made it possible to evaluate alterations in element composition in prostate cancer cell apoptosis and may be a helpful tool for further studies on apoptosis in prostate cancer.