Quick and accurate method to convert BCECF fluorescence to pHi: calibration in three different types of cell preparations

J Cell Physiol. 1992 Jun;151(3):596-603. doi: 10.1002/jcp.1041510320.


A rapid, easy, and accurate method for converting the fluorescence of BCECF to pH, as an alternative to the nigericin method, is described. The ratio of the fluorescence intensities for BCECF can be converted to pH between 4 and 9 by a formula similar to the one used to calculate [Ca2+]i from the fluorescence of fura2. The formula is inverted because H+ binding to BCECF causes a decrease in fluorescence, whereas Ca2+ binding to fura2 causes an increase in fluorescence. The ratio of the fluorescence intensities is a sigmoidal function of the [H+] between pH 4 and 9 with an essentially linear mid region from pH 6 to 8. This calibration procedure in cells is similar to the popular method for fura2 where ionomycin, Ca2+, and an alkaline EGTA solution are added in succession to change the intracellular pCa from 4 to 9. For BCECF in cells, a protonophore, FCCP or CCCP, is added and the cells are titrated with acid to an intracellular pH of 4 and then back to pH 9 with base by observing the gradual change in fluorescence as it asymptotically reaches its limiting minimum and maximum values. This method does not require changing the medium to one with high KCl to depolarize the membrane potential nor does the proton concentration need to be equilibrated across the plasma membrane. The technique can be used to calibrate BCECF in sheets of cells, as well as suspensions of cells over a wide range of pH sensitivities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Calibration
  • Carbonyl Cyanide m-Chlorophenyl Hydrazone
  • Carbonyl Cyanide p-Trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chick Embryo
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Fluoresceins*
  • Fluorescence
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration*
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Solutions


  • Fluoresceins
  • Solutions
  • Carbonyl Cyanide p-Trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone
  • Carbonyl Cyanide m-Chlorophenyl Hydrazone
  • 2',7'-bis(carboxyethyl)-5(6)-carboxyfluorescein