Measurement of proliferation nuclear and membrane markers in tumor cells by flow cytometry

J Histochem Cytochem. 1991 Aug;39(8):1125-30. doi: 10.1177/39.8.1856460.


Nuclear and membrane markers that have been related to proliferative activity were measured by flow cytometry. The markers studied were transferrin receptor (TR), Ki-67 antigen, and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Two-color analysis for DNA via propidium iodide binding and for antigen expression via either a direct or indirect immunofluorescence assay was performed on three different cell lines and a solid human tumor model. The three cell lines tested were MCF-7 (breast), K-562 (leukemia), and A431 (a squamous cell). The solid tumor was obtained by subcutaneous injection of A431 cells into an athymic nude mouse. Our results demonstrate that TR are cell-cycle specific and can be readily measured in the cell lines. Ki-67 antigen is also cell-cycle specific in the cell lines tested, but the mean channel specific fluorescence uptake varies in the cell types. Finally, the EGFR was observed only in the A431 cell line, with most cells equally expressing this receptor. A bimodal distribution of EGFR was observed in A431 cells obtained from a solid tumor grown in an athymic nude mouse system. This suggests that cell line analysis may not always represent what might be observed under in vivo conditions. There are advantages to flow cytometry measurements of these factors which might be useful in predicting how patients should be treated and possibly the prognosis of cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Division*
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Nucleus / chemistry
  • DNA / analysis
  • ErbB Receptors / analysis*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Nuclear Proteins / analysis*
  • Receptors, Transferrin / analysis*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • DNA
  • ErbB Receptors