Fluorescence-based quantitative scratch wound healing assay demonstrating the role of MAPKAPK-2/3 in fibroblast migration

Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 2009 Dec;66(12):1041-7. doi: 10.1002/cm.20418.


The scratch wound healing assay is a sensitive method to characterize cell proliferation and migration, but it is difficult to be quantitatively evaluated. Therefore, we developed an infrared fluorescence detection-based real-time assay for sensitive and accurate quantification of cell migration in vitro. The method offers sensitivity, simplicity, and the potential for integration into automated large-scale screening studies. A live cell staining lipophilic tracer-1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethyl indotricarbocyanine iodide (DiR)-is used for accurate imaging of wound closure in a simple 96-well scratch assay. Scratches are made on prestained confluent cell monolayers using a pipette tip and scanned at different time intervals using a fluorescent scanner. Images are analyzed using Image J software and the migration index is calculated. Effect of cell number, time after scratch and software settings are analyzed. The method is validated by showing concentration- and time-dependent effects of cytochalasin-D on fibroblast migration. Using this assay, we quantitatively evaluate the role of the MAPK-activated protein kinases MK2 and MK3 in fibroblast migration. First, the migratory phenotype of MK2-deficient MEFs is analyzed in a retroviral rescue model. In addition, migration of MK2/3-double-deficient cells is determined and the ability of MK3 to rescue cell migration in MK2/3-double-deficient fibroblasts is demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Carbocyanines
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Fluorescence
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Wound Healing*


  • Carbocyanines
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • MAP-kinase-activated kinase 2
  • MAP-kinase-activated kinase 3
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases