AAT Bioquest

What are the methods used to analyze cell death?

Posted June 9, 2023


The methods utilized to analyze cell death include: flow cytometry, viability assays and microscopy assays. Flow cytometry measures phosphatidylserine externalization using annexin V/PI staining. This assists in visualizing the differences between viable, necrotic, or apoptotic cells based on their binding to PI. Flow cytometry can also analyze the DNA content of cells by staining with DNA-binding dyes like DAPI. This helps to identify subpopulations of cells with fragmented DNA. Light microscopy can be used to visualize cells undergoing shrinking, nuclear condensation, and formation of apoptotic bodies. These changes can be seen after also staining with PI or annexin V. Electron microscopy can be used for detailed examination of cellular structures to visualize chromatin condensation and mitochondrial changes. Viability assays such as the MTT assay measures mitochondrial activity as an indicator of cell viability. It measures the reduction of MTT to a purple formazan product by metabolically active cells.

Additional resources

Measurement of Cell Death in Mammalian Cells

Apoptosis and Necrosis

Cell Meter™ Apoptotic and Necrotic Multiplexing Detection Kit I *Triple Fluorescence Colors*