Detecting apoptosis of leukocytes in mouse lymph nodes

Nat Protoc. 2014 May;9(5):1102-12. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2014.078. Epub 2014 Apr 17.


Although there are multiple methods for analyzing apoptosis in cultured cells, methodologies for analyzing apoptosis in vivo are sparse. In this protocol, we describe how to detect apoptosis of leukocytes in mouse lymph nodes (LNs) via the detection of apoptotic caspases. We have previously used this protocol to study factors that modulate dendritic cell (DC) survival in LNs; however, it can also be used to analyze other leukocytes that migrate to the LNs. DCs labeled with a fluorescent cell tracker are subcutaneously injected in the posterior footpads of mice. Once the labeled DCs reach the popliteal LN (PLN), the animals are intravenously injected with FLIVO, a permeant fluorescent reagent that selectively marks active caspases and consequently apoptotic cells. Explanted PLNs are then examined under a two-photon microscope to look for the presence of apoptotic cells among the DCs injected. The protocol requires 6-6.5 h for preparation and analysis plus an additional 34-40 h to allow apoptosis of the injected DCs in the PLN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / immunology*
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Caspase Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Dyes / administration & dosage
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism
  • Leukocytes / cytology*
  • Leukocytes / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / cytology*
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological


  • Benzimidazoles
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • bisbenzimide ethoxide trihydrochloride