Quantitative determination of gap junction intercellular communication by scrape loading and image analysis

Cell Adhes Commun. 2000 May;7(5):367-75. doi: 10.3109/15419060009109019.


Gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC) consists of intercellular exchange of low molecular weight molecules. Chemically induced alterations of this communication have been suggested to result in abnormal cell growth and tumour promotion. Several in vitro assays have been developed to determine the effect of chemicals on gap junction communication in cultured cells. The scrape loading dye transfer technique is based on studying the transfer of the fluorescent dye Lucifer Yellow in cells where the dye is loaded through a cut in the cell monolayer. This technique is rapid and relatively uncomplicated, but has only been used to qualitatively demonstrate communication, due to lack of an appropriate method for quantification of the dye spreading. We show here that analysis of digital fluorescence images of cells scrape loaded with Lucifer Yellow can be used for quantitative determination of GJIC. We have analysed the images both by means of distance of diffusion of the dye in the cell monolayer, as well as by area of dye-coupled cells. The results are consistent with that obtained using microinjection of Lucifer Yellow and the method offers a simple way for quantitative determination of GJIC.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium
  • Cations, Divalent
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Fluorescent Dyes* / metabolism
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • Isoquinolines* / metabolism
  • Magnesium
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Rats


  • Cations, Divalent
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Isoquinolines
  • lucifer yellow
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium