Evaluation of acridine orange, LysoTracker Red, and quinacrine as fluorescent probes for long-term tracking of acidic vesicles

Cytometry A. 2014 Aug;85(8):729-37. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.22495. Epub 2014 Jun 20.


Acidic vesicles can be imaged and tracked in live cells after staining with several low molecular weight fluorescent probes, or with fluorescently labeled proteins. Three fluorescent dyes, acridine orange, LysoTracker Red DND-99, and quinacrine, were evaluated as acidic vesicle tracers for confocal fluorescence imaging and quantitative analysis. The stability of fluorescent signals, achievable image contrast, and phototoxicity were taken into consideration. The three tested tracers exhibit different advantages and pose different problems in imaging experiments. Acridine orange makes it possible to distinguish acidic vesicles with different internal pH but is fairly phototoxic and can cause spectacular bursts of the dye-loaded vesicles. LysoTracker Red is less phototoxic but its rapid photobleaching limits the range of useful applications considerably. We demonstrate that quinacrine is most suitable for long-term imaging when a high number of frames is required. This capacity made it possible to trace acidic vesicles for several hours, during a process of drug-induced apoptosis. An ability to record the behavior of acidic vesicles over such long periods opens a possibility to study processes like autophagy or long-term effects of drugs on endocytosis and exocytosis.

Keywords: LysoTracker Red; acidic organelles; acridine orange; apoptosis; endocytosis; lysosomes; quinacrine; vesicular transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acids / metabolism*
  • Acridine Orange / metabolism*
  • Amines / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Camptothecin / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Tracking / methods*
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / drug effects
  • Cytoplasmic Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Fluorescence
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Quinacrine / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Acids
  • Amines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Red DND-99
  • Acridine Orange
  • Quinacrine
  • Camptothecin