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A rapid cell counting method utilising acridine orange as a novel discriminating marker for both cultured astrocytes and microglia

journal contribution
posted on 2007-09-30, 00:00 authored by M Lovelace, David CahillDavid Cahill
Cell culture analyses of growth, morphology and apoptosis commonly require counting of different cell types stained with antibodies to discriminate between them. Previously, we reported the use of l-Leucine methyl ester (l-LME) to prepare purified cultures of type 1 astrocytes with minimal microglia, and staining by GFAP and CD antibodies, respectively. Here, we demonstrate a novel use of acridine orange (AO) for rapid discrimination between these cell types using fluorescence microscopy. AO accumulates in the lysosomes and also binds strongly to nuclear DNA and cytoplasmic/nucleolar RNA. Microglia may contain abundant lysosomes due to known roles in homeostasis and immune response. AO staining of lysosomes was tested at a range of concentrations, and 2.5 μg/mL was most suitable. In agreement with previous reports, microglia treated with AO showed very intense yellow, orange or red granular cytoplasmic staining of lysosomes. Microglia contain a substantially higher number of lysosomes than astrocytes, which have a variable amount. We measured the microglia population at 5.14 ± 0.50% in mixed cultures. Thus, these results show AO is a novel discriminatory marker, as microglia were easily observed and counted in clumps on top of the monolayer of astrocytes, providing a rapid alternative to time-consuming and costly antibody-based assays.



Journal of neuroscience methods




223 - 229


Elsevier BV


Amsterdam, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2007, Elsevier B.V.