Normalized neutral lipid quantitation by flow cytometry

Nathan E. Wolins, Katerina N. DeHaan, Vincenza Cifarelli, Angela K. Stoeckman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Interest in measuring tissue lipids has increased as the link between fat-laden tissues and metabolic disease has become obvious; however, linking disease to a specific cell type within a tissue has been hampered by methodological limitations. Flow cytometry (FC) has been used to assess relative lipid levels in cells. Unfortunately, its usefulness is limited because comparisons between samples generated over several hours is problematic. We show that: 1) in lipophilic fluorophore stained cells, fluorescence intensity measured by FC reflects lipid levels; 2) this technique can be used to assess lipid levels in a mixed cell population; 3) normalizing to a control condition can decrease experiment-to-experiment variation; and 4) fluorescence intensity increases linearly with lipid levels. This allows triacylglycerol (TG) mass to be estimated in mixed cell populations comparing cells with known fluorescence and TG levels. We exploited this strategy to estimate lipid levels in monocytes within a mixed population of cells isolated from human blood. Using this strategy, we also confirmed that perilipin (PLIN)1 increases TG accumulation by ectopically expressing fluorescently tagged PLIN1 in Huh7 cells. In both examples, biochemically assaying for TG in specific cell populations is problematic due to limited cell numbers and isolation challenges. Other advantages are discussed. discussed.—Wolins, N. E., K. N. DeHaan, V. Cifarelli, and A. K. Stoeckman. Normalized neutral lipid quantitation by flow cytometry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1294-1300
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2018


  • BODIPY® 493/503
  • Lipid droplet
  • Monocytes
  • Perilipin
  • Triacylglycerol

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