The selective detection of mitochondrial superoxide by live cell imaging

Nat Protoc. 2008;3(6):941-7. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2008.56.


A general protocol is described to improve the specificity for imaging superoxide formation in live cells via fluorescence microscopy with either hydroethidine (HE) or its mitochondrially targeted derivative Mito-HE (MitoSOX Red). Two different excitation wavelengths are used to distinguish the superoxide-dependent hydroxylation of Mito-HE (385-405 nm) from the nonspecific formation of ethidium (480-520 nm). Furthermore, the dual wavelength imaging in live cells can be combined with immunocolocalization, which allows superoxide formation to be compared simultaneously in cocultures of two types of genetically manipulated cells in the same microscopic field. The combination of these approaches can greatly improve the specificity for imaging superoxide formation in cultured cells and tissues.

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / enzymology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenanthridines / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Superoxides / metabolism*


  • 5-(6'-triphenylphosphoniumhexyl)-5,6-dihydro-6-phenyl-3,8-phenanthridinediammine
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Phenanthridines
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Superoxides
  • hydroethidine
  • Superoxide Dismutase