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Cytometry. 1997 Feb 1;27(2):145-52.

A novel flow cytometric method for quantifying phagocytosis of apoptotic cells.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.


Many eukaryotic cell types are capable of specific recognition and phagocytosis of apoptotic cells, and there is increasing interest in the mechanisms involved in this process. To facilitate analysis of these mechanisms, we designed a novel fluorescence-based method to quantify phagocytosis in vitro using endothelial cell engulfment of apoptotic cells as a model. The B-cell line WEHI-231 was labeled with the fluorophore 5-(&-6)-carboxytetramethyl-rhodamine-succinimidyl-ester (TAMRA) and then induced to undergo apoptosis by crosslinking cell surface immunoglobulin. An endothelial cell line was subsequently allowed to ingest these TAMRA-labeled apoptotic lymphocytes. After 24 h, nonbound lymphocytes were removed and the mono-layers were dissociated. Any nonphagocytosed lymphocytes that remained tightly bound to the endothelial cells were then indirectly immunofluorescein labeled for the pan leukocyte-specific marker CD45. Flow cytometric analysis of the cells distinguished three endothellal cell populations: 1) endothelial cells with surface bound lymphocytes (TAMRA+ CD45+); 2) endothelial cells containing phagocytosed apoptotic lymphocytes (TAMRA+ CD45-); and 3) endothelial cells that were not associated with lymphocytes. The identification of these populations was verified by confocal microscopy of sorted cells. The method described herein will facilitate detailed studies on phagocytic recognition of apoptotic cells and should have broad applications to other phagocytic cell systems.

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