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Nat Protoc. 2012 Jun 14;7(7):1311-26. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2012.065.

Fluorescent labeling of nano-sized vesicles released by cells and subsequent quantitative and qualitative analysis by high-resolution flow cytometry.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


We provide a protocol for a high-resolution flow cytometry-based method for quantitative and qualitative analysis of individual nano-sized vesicles released by cells, as developed and previously described by our group. The method involves (i) bright fluorescent labeling of cell-derived vesicles and (ii) flow cytometric analysis of these vesicles using an optimized configuration of the commercially available BD Influx flow cytometer. The method allows the detection and analysis of fluorescent cell-derived vesicles of ∼100 nm. Integrated information can be obtained regarding the light scattering, quantity, buoyant density and surface proteins of these nano-sized vesicles. This method can be applied in nanobiology to study basic aspects of cell-derived vesicles. Potential clinical applications include the detailed analysis of vesicle-based biomarkers in body fluids and quality control analysis of (biological) vesicles used as therapeutic agents. Isolation, fluorescent labeling and purification of vesicles can be done within 24 h. Flow cytometer setup, calibration and subsequent data acquisition can be done within 2-4 h by an experienced flow cytometer operator.

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