Flow cytometry controls, instrument setup, and the determination of positivity

Cytometry A. 2006 Sep 1;69(9):1037-42. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.20333.


A frequent goal of flow cytometric analysis is to classify cells as positive or negative for a given marker, or to determine the precise ratio of positive to negative cells. This requires good and reproducible instrument setup, and careful use of controls for analyzing and interpreting the data. The type of controls to include in various kinds of flow cytometry experiments is a matter of some debate and discussion. In this tutorial, we classify controls in various categories, describe the options within each category, and discuss the merits of each option.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Flow Cytometry* / instrumentation
  • Flow Cytometry* / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design*


  • Biomarkers