Detecting anastasis in vivo by caspasetracker biosensor

Ho Man Tang, Ming Chiu Fung, Ho Lam Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Anastasis (Greek for “rising to life”) is a recently discovered cell recovery phenomenon whereby dying cells can reverse late-stage cell death processes that are generally assumed to be intrinsically irreversible. Promoting anastasis could in principle rescue or preserve injured cells that are difficult to replace such as cardiomyocytes or neurons, thereby facilitating tissue recovery. Conversely, suppressing anastasis in cancer cells, undergoing apoptosis after anti-cancer therapies, may ensure cancer cell death and reduce the chances of recurrence. However, these studies have been hampered by the lack of tools for tracking the fate of cells that undergo anastasis in live animals. The challenge is to identify the cells that have reversed the cell death process despite their morphologically normal appearance after recovery. To overcome this difficulty, we have developed Drosophila and mammalian CaspaseTracker biosensor systems that can identify and permanently track the anastatic cells in vitro or in vivo. Here, we present in vivo protocols for the generation and use of the CaspaseTracker dual biosensor system to detect and track anastasis in Drosophila melanogaster after transient exposure to cell death stimuli. While conventional biosensors and protocols can label cells actively undergoing apoptotic cell death, the CaspaseTracker biosensor can permanently label cells that have recovered after caspase activation - a hallmark of late-stage apoptosis, and simultaneously identify active apoptotic processes. This biosensor can also track the recovery of the cells that attempted other forms of cell death that directly or indirectly involved caspase activity. Therefore, this protocol enables us to continuously track the fate of these cells and their progeny, facilitating future studies of the biological functions, molecular mechanisms, physiological and pathological consequences, and therapeutic implications of anastasis. We also discuss the appropriate controls to distinguish cells that undergo anastasis from those that display non-apoptotic caspase activity in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere54107
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number132
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Anastasis
  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Biosensor
  • Caspase
  • CaspaseTracker
  • Issue 132
  • Medicine
  • Necroptosis
  • Necrosis
  • Programmed cell death
  • Reversal of apoptosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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