Quantification of epithelial cell proliferation, cell dynamics, and cell kinetics in vivo

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. 2017 Jul;6(4). doi: 10.1002/wdev.274. Epub 2017 May 5.


The measurement of cell proliferation in vivo is usually carried out by the examination of static measures. These comprise the mitotic index or labeling indices using incorporation of DNA synthesis markers such as bromodeoxyuridine or tritiated thymidine, or intrinsic markers, such as Ki67 and proliferative cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). But static measures only provide a 'snapshot' of cell proliferation. Rate measures, including double labeling methods and the metaphase arrest method, can actually measure cell production rates but they are far less utilized at present. Transit times and migration rates can also be measured using pulse and chase labeling or by following the transit of labeled cells through the tissue. Simple indices of cell division can easily be confounded by concomitant changes in the compartment size and many alleged markers of proliferation have serious shortcomings, as the markers may be involved in multiple aspects of cell regulation. The complexities of studying proliferation in vivo are illustrated here with a focus on the gastrointestinal tract. Some of these methods can help elucidate the role of the stem cells and their relationship to label retaining cells. WIREs Dev Biol 2017, 6:e274. doi: 10.1002/wdev.274 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / metabolism


  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen