Rapid Light-Dependent Degradation of Fluorescent Dyes in Formulated Serum-Free Media

Immunohorizons. 2019 Dec 16;3(12):585-592. doi: 10.4049/immunohorizons.1900080.


Chemically defined serum-free media are increasingly used as a tool to help standardize experiments by eliminating the potential variability contributed by pooled serum. These media are formulated for the culture and expansion of specific cell types, maintaining cell viability without the need for exogenous animal proteins. Formulated serum-free media could thus help improve viability and reduce variability during sample preparation for flow cytometry, yet a thorough analysis of how such media impact fluorochrome-Ab conjugates has not been performed. In this study, we expose fluorescent Ab-labeled cells or Ab capture beads to white light in the presence of various hematopoietic cell culture media and provide evidence that formulated serum-free media permit rapid light-initiated fluorescent dye degradation in a cell-independent manner. We observed fluorescence signal loss of several dyes, which included fluorescence spillover into adjacent detectors. Finally, photostability of Ab-fluorochrome conjugates in formulated serum-free media is partially restored in the presence of either serum or vitamin C, implicating reactive oxygen species in the observed signal loss. Thus, our data indicate that formulated serum-free media designed to standardize cell culture are not currently optimized for use with fluorochrome-Ab conjugates, and thus, extreme caution should be exercised when using these media in cytometric experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Blood Donors
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Survival
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free / metabolism*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Proteolysis / radiation effects*
  • Serum / metabolism


  • Antibodies
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Ascorbic Acid