A simple method to preserve oceanic phytoplankton for flow cytometric analyses

Cytometry. 1989 Sep;10(5):629-35. doi: 10.1002/cyto.990100519.


A simple method was developed to preserve marine phytoplankton populations so that delayed flow cytometric analyses could be performed. The method consisted of immediate fixation with 1% glutaraldehyde (final concentration) followed by storage in liquid nitrogen. The method was tested on individual algal species and on natural samples from both coastal and pelagic waters. In most cases, it caused little cell loss and preserved well both forward angle light scatter and chlorophyll fluorescence, but phycoerythrin fluorescence sometimes was significantly increased. The technique performed best for the small-sized picoplankton (below 2 microns) such as Synechococcus cyanobacteria or the newly discovered oceanic prochlorophytes. For larger-sized cells it had to be applied on a case by case basis as some fragile species, particularly dinoflagellates and cryptophytes, were poorly preserved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chlorophyll
  • Eukaryota
  • Flow Cytometry*
  • Fluorescence
  • Freezing
  • Glutaral
  • Phycoerythrin
  • Phytoplankton*
  • Plankton*
  • Preservation, Biological / methods*


  • Phycoerythrin
  • Chlorophyll
  • Glutaral