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PLoS One. 2010 Apr 1;5(4):e9955. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009955.

A quantitative image cytometry technique for time series or population analyses of signaling networks.

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Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry, Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan.



Modeling of cellular functions on the basis of experimental observation is increasingly common in the field of cellular signaling. However, such modeling requires a large amount of quantitative data of signaling events with high spatio-temporal resolution. A novel technique which allows us to obtain such data is needed for systems biology of cellular signaling.


We developed a fully automatable assay technique, termed quantitative image cytometry (QIC), which integrates a quantitative immunostaining technique and a high precision image-processing algorithm for cell identification. With the aid of an automated sample preparation system, this device can quantify protein expression, phosphorylation and localization with subcellular resolution at one-minute intervals. The signaling activities quantified by the assay system showed good correlation with, as well as comparable reproducibility to, western blot analysis. Taking advantage of the high spatio-temporal resolution, we investigated the signaling dynamics of the ERK pathway in PC12 cells.


The QIC technique appears as a highly quantitative and versatile technique, which can be a convenient replacement for the most conventional techniques including western blot, flow cytometry and live cell imaging. Thus, the QIC technique can be a powerful tool for investigating the systems biology of cellular signaling.

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