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Cell health

Apoptosis assay guide

Learn about your options when you need an apoptosis assay.

You can determine how cells are dying by measuring markers that are activated in different types, and at different stages, of cell death.

Apoptosis assay methods

Other assay methods are used to assay necrosis, anoikis and autophagy.

Learn more below, or for a more detailed examination of cell death, and assays to analyze it, see our three comprehensive guides to apoptosis,  necroptosis, and  autophagy.

Annexin V assay

Annexin V binds to phosphatidylserine, which migrates to the outer plasma membrane in apoptosis. Analysis is typically by flow cytometry. Pair Annexin V with a membrane impermeable dye like 7-AAD to distinguish between intact, apoptotic, and necrotic cells (eg see ab214663, ab214484, or ab214485).

See a partial list of our Annexin V dye conjugates below or a full list here.

Annexin V conjugate


Assay kits



ab14085, ab14082



ab14142, ab14143



ab14150, ab14147



ab14155, ab14154






ab14153, ab14152


ab14190, ab14165

Cell health apoptosis fig 1

DNA condensation/fragmentation

DNA condensation in apoptosis can be measured using DNA stains to visualize condensed nuclei.

DNA fragmentation can be measured using agarose gels. In the TUNEL assay, the 3’ ends of DNA fragments are labeled with deoxyuridine either conjugated to a fluorescent dye or biotin.



Assay kits

DNA fragmentation

Gel electrophoresis

ab66090, ab65627, ab66093


Flow cytometry, fluorescence microscope, microscope

ab66108, ab66110, ab206386

Cell health apoptosis fig 2

Active caspase detection

Activated caspases can be detected using antibodies with IHC, western blotting, or flow cytometry.

Caspase activity assays either use peptide substrates, which are cleaved by caspases in cell extracts, or similar substrates that bind to activated caspases in live cells. Caspase specificity varies by substrate.

Learn more about our assays for caspases 1 through 12, formulated either for cell lysates with analysis by plate reader or for live cells with analysis by flow cytometer, microscope or plate reader.

We also offer assays for cathepsin and calpain activity analysis: cathepsin D (ab65302), cathepsin B (ab65303), cathepsin L (ab65306), and calpains (ab65308).

Mitochondrial membrane potential-dependent dyes

Dyes that accumulate in mitochondria due to the mitochondrial membrane potential are also used in the analysis of apoptosis. For more information, see our guide to cell viability assays. Apoptotic cells stain more weakly with these dyes due to the loss of membrane potential.

Cytochrome C release

Cytochrome C is released into the cytoplasm following total loss of mitochondrial membrane potential.



Assay kits

Cytochrome C

Western blot, fluorescence microscope

ab110415, ab110417, ab65311

Glutathione assays

Glutathione assays are also used for the analysis of apoptosis.



Assay kits

GSH/GSSG assay

Fluorometric plate reader


Necrosis, anoikis, and autophagy

We offer several kits for studying other forms of cell death: necrosis and apoptosis (ab176749 and ab176750), anoikis (ab211153), and autophagy (ab133075 and ab139484).

Learn more about:

- Cell viability assays based on cell metabolism/enzyme activity
Measure the rate of continuing cellular activities, such as metabolism.

- Cytotoxicity assays based on cytolysis/membrane leakage
Test for cell membrane damage, either by measuring the leakage of cellular enzymes or staining with membrane-impermeable dyes.

- Cell proliferation and cell cycle assays
Monitor the growth of a cell population using cell staining dyes, detect generations of daughter cells, or analyze the cell cycle state of a cell population.