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Immunol Cell Biol. 1999 Dec;77(6):509-15.

Divided we stand: tracking cell proliferation with carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester.

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Discipline of Pathology, The University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.


Most techniques for assessing cell division can either detect limited numbers of cell divisions (bromodeoxyuridine incorporation) or only quantify overall proliferation (tritiated thymidine incorporation). In the majority of cases, viable cells of known division history cannot subsequently be obtained for functional studies. The cells of the immune system undergo marked proliferation and differentiation during the course of an immune response. The relative lack of an organized structure of the lymphohaemopoietic system, in contrast with other organ systems, makes lineage interrelationships difficult to study. Coupled with the remarkable degree of mobility engendered by recirculation, the differentiation occurring along with cell division in the immune system has not been readily accessible for investigation. The present article reviews the development of a cell division analysis procedure based on the quantitative serial halving of the membrane permeant, stably incorporating fluorescent dye carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester (CFSE or CFDA, SE). The technique can be used both in vitro and in vivo, allowing eight to 10 successive divisions to be resolved by flow cytometry. Furthermore, viable cells from defined generation numbers can be sorted by flow cytometry for functional analysis.

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