Three-color flow cytometric assay for the study of the mechanisms of cell-mediated cytotoxicity

Immunol Lett. 2001 Aug 1;78(1):35-9. doi: 10.1016/s0165-2478(01)00226-7.


Cytotoxic lymphocytes kill tumor or virus-infected target cells utilizing two mechanisms (1) release of lytic granules (containing perforin and granzymes) and (2) Fas ligand (FasL)/Fas or TNF initiated apoptosis. We have examined mechanisms of target cell lysis using a new Flow Cytometric Cytotoxicity Assay (FC Assay). Target cells were labeled with PKH 67 dye. Cell death was estimated by 7-amino-actinomycin (7-AAD) inclusion and annexin V-PE binding. A strong direct correlation has been found between the percentage of dead target cells in the FC Assay and the results of 51Cr release assay when human LAK and CTL were used as a model system. We have shown that both NK and CTL kill tumor cells mostly by granule-mediated mechanisms, as lysis was blocked by a perforin inhibitor Concanamycin A (Folimycin) but was significantly less sensitive to zVAD-FMK caspase inhibition. The FC assay allows accurate measurement of cell-mediated cytotoxicity as individual target cell death is detected directly.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Annexin A5 / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic*
  • Dactinomycin / analogs & derivatives
  • Dactinomycin / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*


  • Annexin A5
  • Dactinomycin
  • 7-aminoactinomycin D