iBH3: simple, fixable BH3 profiling to determine apoptotic priming in primary tissue by flow cytometry

Biol Chem. 2016 Jul 1;397(7):671-8. doi: 10.1515/hsz-2016-0107.


Dysregulation of the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis, controlled by the BCL-2 family of proteins, leads to disease states including cancer. Rapid analysis of a cell's dependency on the BCL-2 family of proteins is hindered by the complex interactions of more than a dozen proteins. Transcript or even protein levels are therefore generally insufficient to predict a cell's response to perturbations like chemotherapy. Previously, we developed the JC-1 BH3 method to provide a same day functional assay to assess a cell's propensity to undergo apoptosis and demonstrated its utility in predicting response to chemotherapy. We have now improved upon these methods to create a robust assay amenable to high throughput platforms using cytochrome c retention in formaldehyde fixed cells to remove the time sensitivity of JC-1 potential measurements. BH3 profiling by intracellular staining (iBH3) is suitable for 96- and 384-well formats, and can be used to directly screen candidate BH3-mimetic compounds for activity. When used as the final component of dynamic BH3 profiling (DBP), which uses a drug pretreatment prior to iBH3 to assess the change in profile due to treatment, it can predict the response of cells to chemotherapy days before they show signs of death.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Protein Domains
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tissue Fixation


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Cytochromes c