Fluorescent cell barcoding in flow cytometry allows high-throughput drug screening and signaling profiling

Nat Methods. 2006 May;3(5):361-8. doi: 10.1038/nmeth872.


Flow cytometry allows high-content, multiparameter analysis of single cells, making it a promising tool for drug discovery and profiling of intracellular signaling. To add high-throughput capacity to flow cytometry, we developed a cell-based multiplexing technique called fluorescent cell barcoding (FCB). In FCB, each sample is labeled with a different signature, or barcode, of fluorescence intensity and emission wavelengths, and mixed with other samples before antibody staining and analysis by flow cytometry. Using three FCB fluorophores, we were able to barcode and combine entire 96-well plates, reducing antibody consumption 100-fold and acquisition time to 5-15 min per plate. Using FCB and phospho-specific flow cytometry, we screened a small-molecule library for inhibitors of T cell-receptor and cytokine signaling, simultaneously determining compound efficacy and selectivity. We also analyzed IFN-gamma signaling in multiple cell types from primary mouse splenocytes, revealing differences in sensitivity and kinetics between B cells, CD4+ and CD4- T cells and CD11b-hi cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD11b Antigen / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / pathology


  • CD11b Antigen
  • Cytokines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Interferon-gamma