Simultaneous quantitation of 15 cytokines using a multiplexed flow cytometric assay

J Immunol Methods. 1999 Jul 30;227(1-2):41-52. doi: 10.1016/s0022-1759(99)00069-1.


Several methods have been developed to quantify cytokines and chemokines in biological fluids and tissue culture samples, including bioassays, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), intracellular staining, ribonuclease protection assay (RPA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). However, each of these techniques possesses one or more significant limitations. Here, we describe a new multiplexed assay, using the FlowMetrix system, that can quantify multiple cytokines simultaneously in a small sample volume. This assay was found to be more accurate, sensitive and reproducible than the conventional microtitre ELISA procedure. Furthermore, the time and cost involved are comparable to, or less than, the ELISA. A key feature of the FlowMetrix assay is its ability to multiplex: here, we show that this assay can accurately quantitate 15 cytokines in a 100 microl sample volume while the same analysis by ELISA requires 1.5 ml (100 microl for each cytokine assay). By using this Flow Metrix assay, we could demonstrate that only T helper 1 (T(H)1)-deviated cells produce detectable levels of interleukin (IL)-2, while only T(H)2-deviated cells produce significant amounts of IL-4. Six other cytokines were produced by both T cell subsets, with the T(H)1 population producing more IL-3, granulocyte-monocyte colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interferon (IFN)-gamma, and the T(H)2 population producing more IL-5, IL-10, and IL-13. Seven other cytokines were not produced in detectable amounts. This assay should prove to be a powerful tool in the quantitation of cytokines, or any other soluble product for which antibody pairs are available. It will also provide a more complete picture of the plethora of cytokines secreted during an immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / analysis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry*
  • Mice
  • Th1 Cells / chemistry
  • Th2 Cells / chemistry


  • Cytokines