Flow Cytometry for the Study of Phagocyte Functions

Rev Infect Dis. Jan-Feb 1989;11(1):16-33. doi: 10.1093/clinids/11.1.16.


Phagocytes play a key role in host defense, and cell defects are associated with increased susceptibility to infection. Flow cytometry offers rapid and reproducible measurements of single cells in suspension and, following staining with one or more fluorochromes, simultaneous examination of several cell functions. Subpopulations of cells can be identified and sorted for morphologic, biochemical, and functional examination, and specially adapted computer systems allow storage of data for subsequent detailed analysis. Several flow-cytometric assays for the study of phagocytes and their interactions with microorganisms have been developed. These assays facilitate the study of (1) phagocyte surface receptors and regulatory molecules; (2) membrane potential; (3) phagocytosis of microorganisms, including the discrimination between attachment to the phagocyte surface and actual internalization; (4) phagosomal pH; (5) degranulation and enzymatic activity; (6) intracellular calcium; (7) oxidative metabolism; (8) intracellular killing of microorganisms; (9) degradation of microorganisms; and (10) exocytosis. In addition, the influence of serum opsonins on phagocyte-microorganism interactions can be studied. Flow-cytometric techniques are applicable to both experimental and clinical work.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Separation
  • Flow Cytometry*
  • Humans
  • Phagocytes / immunology
  • Phagocytes / physiology*