Quantitation of membrane receptor distributions by image correlation spectroscopy: concept and application

Biophys J. 1993 Sep;65(3):1135-46. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(93)81173-1.


Measurement of receptor distributions on cell surfaces is one important aspect of understanding the mechanism whereby receptors function. In recent years, scanning fluorescence correlation spectroscopy has emerged as an excellent tool for making quantitative measurements of cluster sizes and densities. However, the measurements are slow and usually require fixed preparations. Moreover, while the precision is good, the accuracy is limited by the relatively small amount of information in each measurement, such that many are required. Here we present a novel extension of the scanning correlation spectroscopy that solves a number of the present problems. The new technique, which we call image correlation spectroscopy, is based on quantitative analysis of confocal scanning laser microscopy images. Since these can be generated in a matter of a second or so, the measurements become more rapid. The image is collected over a large cell area so that more sampling is done, improving the accuracy. The sacrifice is a lower resolution in the sampling, which leads to a lower precision. This compromise of precision in favor of speed and accuracy still provides an enormous advantage for image correlation spectroscopy over scanning correlation spectroscopy. The present work demonstrates the underlying theory, showing how the principles can be applied to measurements on standard fluorescent beads and changes in distribution of receptors for platelet-derived growth factor on human foreskin fibroblasts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Line
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / analysis*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Receptors, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / immunology
  • Receptors, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods*


  • Antibodies
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor