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J Immunol Methods. 1989 Feb 24;117(2):205-14.

Cell-mediated cytotoxicity. A highly sensitive and informative flow cytometric assay.

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Zynaxis Cell Science, Inc., Malvern, PA 19355.


Determination of target cell lysis by cytolytic effectors has typically been achieved by two methods: the release of various markers from the cell, as in 51chromium release assays and the uptake of markers into the cell, as in trypan blue uptake in single cell/conjugate binding assays. Problems associated with these assays might include: (1) poor uptake, (2) nonspecific release, (3) poor statistics, (4) length of assays, or (5) subjectivity. These difficulties prompted the development of a new sensitive flow cytometric assay employing two fluorochromes. PKH-1, a fluorochrome which fluoresces in the green, binds to the cytoplasmic membrane and does not leak or transfer, is used to identify the target cell population. Propidium iodide fluoresces in the red and is used to detect non-viable cells. Use of these two fluorochromes and two parameter analysis allows for identification of four subpopulations in the sample: live effectors, dead effectors, live targets and dead targets. By enumeration of these subpopulations the following information can be calculated: (1) the percent target lysis, (2) effector-to-target cell ratios, (3) viability of the effector cells at the termination of the assay, and (4) viable effector to target cell ratios. The results show that PKH-1 labeling of target cells had no effect on effector-target cell interactions. Excellent correlation was found between this method and the chromium assay, however, due to earlier detection of the lytic event, this method provides a distinct time advantage over current methods.

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