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Cytometry. 1994 Oct 1;17(2):151-8.

Factors underlying the variability of lipid droplet fluorescence in MA-10 Leydig tumor cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City.


Neutral lipids accumulate in cellular lipid droplets. These droplets vary remarkably in number and amount between cells. In the present studies, the variability in lipid content was quantified by comparing the coefficient of variation of fluorescence histograms of nile red lipid-stained cells to the variability of cell size or cell protein distributions. This measure of lipid droplet variability persisted through a wide range of cell lipid content and averaged 4.4-fold more variability than cell size and 2.6-fold more variability than cell protein content. While looking for possible explanations for this variability, it was determined that cell to cell variability could not be explained by multiple clonal populations of cells or the confluence of the cell monolayer. Analysis of lipid variability using a more droplet-specific fluorescent dye, bodipy, reduced variability by about 44%. Cell cycle analysis revealed that G2 + M cells contained more lipid than S-phase cells, which in turn contained more lipid than G0 + G1 cells, but that variability was equally large throughout the cell cycle. The cholesteryl ester hydrolase inhibitor, diethylumbelliferyl phosphate, inhibited hydrolysis of both cholesteryl esters and triglycerides. Lipid content of diethylumbelliferyl phosphate-treated cells increased while the variability in lipid staining decreased by an average of 72%. Thus, the excess lipid fluorescence variability compared to cell size or protein fluorescence could in part be explained by variability in cellular hydrolysis of triglyceride and cholesteryl ester. Excess lipid fluorescent variability could be reduced by an average of 44% when a more lipid droplet-specific stain was used instead of nile red.

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