Phasor plotting with frequency-domain flow cytometry

Opt Express. 2016 Jun 27;24(13):14596-607. doi: 10.1364/OE.24.014596.


Interest in time resolved flow cytometry is growing. In this paper, we collect time-resolved flow cytometry data and use it to create polar plots showing distributions that are a function of measured fluorescence decay rates from individual fluorescently-labeled cells and fluorescent microspheres. Phasor, or polar, graphics are commonly used in fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM). In FLIM measurements, the plotted points on a phasor graph represent the phase-shift and demodulation of the frequency-domain fluorescence signal collected by the imaging system for each image pixel. Here, we take a flow cytometry cell counting system, introduce into it frequency-domain optoelectronics, and process the data so that each point on a phasor plot represents the phase shift and demodulation of an individual cell or particle. In order to demonstrate the value of this technique, we show that phasor graphs can be used to discriminate among populations of (i) fluorescent microspheres, which are labeled with one fluorophore type; (ii) Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells labeled with one and two different fluorophore types; and (iii) Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells that express combinations of fluorescent proteins with different fluorescence lifetimes. The resulting phasor plots reveal differences in the fluorescence lifetimes within each sample and provide a distribution from which we can infer the number of cells expressing unique single or dual fluorescence lifetimes. These methods should facilitate analysis time resolved flow cytometry data to reveal complex fluorescence decay kinetics.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetulus
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Kinetics
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Microspheres*
  • Optical Imaging


  • Fluorescent Dyes