Flow cytometric analysis of BrdU incorporation as a high-throughput method for measuring adult neurogenesis in the mouse

J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. Mar-Apr 2009;59(2):100-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vascn.2008.12.002. Epub 2008 Dec 14.


Introduction: The generation of new neurons occurs throughout adulthood in discrete brain regions, and may be regulated by neuropsychiatric diseases and therapeutic drug treatments. Most current methods that study this process measure the labeling of newborn cells by 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) using immunohistochemical methods followed by the microscopic counting of BrdU positive cells. This method is time consuming and labor intensive, typically taking several weeks to analyze.

Methods: Therefore, we characterized a method to measure BrdU incorporation in the adult mouse hippocampus in vivo by using flow cytometry, which normally allows analysis of data within a single day.

Results: The present study compared multiple BrdU dosing and loading protocols to determine a dosing strategy that produced the best signal to noise ratio. BrdU incorporation was also compared across different brain regions. The method was sensitive to a number of experimental disease manipulations. Induction of type-1 diabetes and depletion of norepinephrine reduced hippocampal cell proliferation. In contrast, chronic administration of electroconvulsive shock, a somatic treatment for depression, as well as chronic treatment with the antidepressant fluoxetine elevated hippocampal cell proliferation. This increase in cell proliferation with fluoxetine was detected as early as 14 days into treatment. Moreover, comparing measures of cell proliferation obtained by immunohistochemical and flow cytometric methods within the same animals were convergent and significantly correlated to each other. Flow cytometry was also sufficiently sensitive to quantify the survival of newly born cells.

Discussion: These experiments validate the utility of flow cytometry in analyzing hippocampal cell proliferation and survival in a reliable and high-throughput fashion. The speedy analysis afforded by flow cytometry lends itself to be utilized in novel drug discovery and physiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Benzylamines / toxicity
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / analysis*
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / chemically induced*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Fluoxetine / pharmacology
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurotoxins / toxicity
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Prosencephalon / chemistry
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Benzylamines
  • Neurotoxins
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Fluoxetine
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • DSP 4
  • Norepinephrine