Quantification of cellular viability by automated microscopy and flow cytometry
Cellular viability is usually determined by measuring the capacity of cells to exclude vital dyes such as 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI), or by assessing nuclear morphology with chromatinophilic plasma membrane-permeant dyes, such as Hoechst 33342. However, a fraction of cells that exclude DAPI or exhibit normal nuclear morphology have already lost mitochondrial functions and/or manifest massive activation of apoptotic caspases, and hence are irremediably committed to death. Here, we developed a protocol for the simultaneous detection of plasma membrane integrity (based on DAPI) or nuclear morphology (based on Hoechst 33342), mitochondrial functions (based on the mitochondrial transmembrane potential probe DiOC6(3)) and caspase activation (based on YO-PRO®-3, which can enter cells exclusively upon the caspase-mediated activation of pannexin 1 channels). This method, which allows for the precise quantification of dead, dying and healthy cells, can be implemented on epifluorescence microscopy or flow cytometry platforms and is compatible with a robotized, high-throughput workflow.