Critical appraisal of the side population assay in stem cell and cancer stem cell research

Cell Stem Cell. 2011 Feb 4;8(2):136-47. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2011.01.007.


The "Side Population" (SP) discrimination assay is a flow cytometry method used to detect stem cells based on the dye efflux properties of ABC transporters. We discuss the SP assay and its applications in stem cell biology, with an emphasis on the technical challenges related to sample preparation, data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation. We highlight the value of multicolor phenotyping, the impact of DNA ploidy, and the importance of distinguishing graft versus host cells for an appropriate SP discrimination. To improve the consistency and reliability of data between laboratories, we propose a set of recommendations for SP assay data reporting.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Ploidies
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism