Sequential staining improves detection of CCR2 and CX3CR1 on monocytes when simultaneously evaluating CCR5 by multicolor flow cytometry

Cytometry A. 2013 Mar;83(3):280-6. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.22257. Epub 2013 Jan 22.


Chemokines and their receptors play an essential role within the immune system by dictating cellular migration. In vivo, receptor-ligand interactions rarely occur in isolation as cellular recruitment and migration are complex and highly coordinated processes often involving networks of multiple chemokines and multiple receptors. Simultaneous detection of multiple chemokine receptors on the single cell level is necessary to allow immunophenotyping studies that will help understand the intricacies of these networks. Chemokine receptors undergo a basal level of ongoing internalization, intracellular trafficking, and recycling back to the cell surface, even in the absence of the ligand. In the presence of ligand, receptor-ligand interactions enhance receptor internalization, reducing the cell surface receptor concentration, making precise determination of intrinsic levels challenging. Using multicolor flow cytometry, we sought to evaluate and optimize the simultaneous detection of cell surface expression levels of CCR2, CX3CR1, and CCR5 in primary human monocytes using a single antibody panel. We observed that staining for CCR2 alone or for CX3CR1 alone showed greater expression levels than when the cells were stained with the full panel of antibodies. Fluorescent-minus-one (FMO) controls revealed that ligation of the CCR5 monoclonal antibody to the receptor interfered with detection of CX3CR1 and CCR2. Sequential addition of antibodies during the staining procedure was sufficient to restore the detection levels, suggesting close proximity and possible functional interactions between CCR2/CCR5 and CX3CR1/CCR5 in monocytes. This study highlights the importance of optimizing staining procedures and using proper controls when simultaneously evaluating expression levels of multiple chemokine receptors by flow cytometry. Concurrent assessment of multiple receptors will provide insight and greater understanding of the complex interactions involved in cellular migration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • CX3C Chemokine Receptor 1
  • Cell Movement
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Receptors, CCR2 / analysis*
  • Receptors, CCR2 / immunology
  • Receptors, CCR5 / analysis*
  • Receptors, CCR5 / immunology
  • Receptors, Chemokine / analysis*
  • Receptors, Chemokine / immunology
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Surface
  • CCR2 protein, human
  • CX3C Chemokine Receptor 1
  • CX3CR1 protein, human
  • Receptors, CCR2
  • Receptors, CCR5
  • Receptors, Chemokine