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J Immunol Methods. 1987 Jun 26;100(1-2):59-71.

Antibody-bearing liposomes as multicolor immunofluorescence markers for flow cytometry and imaging.


Liposomes covalently coupled to monoclonal antibodies retain the specificity of the antibody and bind only to cells bearing the appropriate determinant. As opposed to directly labeled antibodies which generally have fluorochrome to protein ratio of between 2-5, the entrapped space inside liposome can contain several hundred to several thousand molecules of fluorochromes in a space chemically isolated from the outside environment, thus providing the potential for an amplified fluorescence signal. We have prepared small unilamellar liposomes containing the soluble fluorochromes carboxyfluorescein (CF), which fluoresces in the green and sulforhodamine (SR), which fluoresces in the red, and covalently coupled a series of monoclonal antibodies using a heterobifunctional reagent. We were able to detect, on an Epics 753 flow cytometer equipped with an argon ion and a dye laser and by fluorescence microscopy, both single and double labeled mouse spleen lymphocyte subsets, fibroblast L cells and Raji cells. Complete color separation was obtained with CF-labeled cells being detected only by the green photomultiplier and SR-labeled cells by the red photomultiplier. Cells labeled with both were detected by both photomultipliers. Liposomes bearing anti-Ia antibodies bound only to B lymphocytes whereas those with anti-H-2K antibody bound both to T and B lymphocytes. In another system, single and dual color immunofluorescence made possible the simultaneous detection of HLA and H-2K molecules on transfected murine fibroblast L cells. The signal-to-noise ratio was more favorable for the liposome-labeled reagents than reagents labeled with fluorescein isothiocyanate. Cells labeled with antibody-bearing liposomes could be fixed with paraformaldehyde or glutaraldehyde without adversely affecting the original staining patterns. Apart from the two fluorochromes described above, other markers of choice could be encapsulated without any adverse effect on the antibody-liposome coupling procedure or on the specificity of the conjugated antibody. Since the fluorochrome is not directly coupled to the protein, there is no requirement for protein conjugation sites in order for it be usefully encapsulated inside liposomes. Therefore, this system provides new opportunities to exploit different, as yet untapped fluorochromes for use in flow cytometry and imaging.

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