Determining the contents and cell origins of apoptotic bodies by flow cytometry Academic Article uri icon


  • Over 200 billion cells undergo apoptosis every day in the human body in order to maintain tissue homeostasis. Increased apoptosis can also occur under pathological conditions including infection and autoimmune disease. During apoptosis, cells can fragment into subcellular membrane-bound vesicles known as apoptotic bodies (ApoBDs). We recently developed a flow cytometry-based method to accurately differentiate ApoBDs from other particles (e.g. cells and debris). In the present study, we aim to further characterize subsets of ApoBDs based on intracellular contents and cell type-specific surface markers. Utilizing a flow cytometry-based approach, we demonstrated that intracellular contents including nuclear materials and mitochondria are distributed to some, but not all ApoBDs. Interestingly, the mechanism of ApoBD formation could affect the distribution of intracellular contents into ApoBDs. Furthermore, we also showed that ApoBDs share the same surface markers as their cell of origin, which can be used to distinguish cell type-specific ApoBDs from a mixed culture. These studies demonstrate that ApoBDs are not homogeneous and can be divided into specific subclasses based on intracellular contents and cell surface markers. The described flow cytometry-based method to study ApoBDs could be used in future studies to better understand the function of ApoBDs.

publication date

  • 2017