Fluorescent probes have been utilized to label leukocytes for both in vivo and in vitro studies of cell migration; however, the effects of such probes on migration have not been determined. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of two commonly used fluorescent probes on leukocyte chemotaxis. J774 macrophages were labeled with either calcein-acetoxymethyl ester (calcein-AM) or 2′,7′-bis-(2-carboxyethyl)-5-(and 6)-carboxyfluorescein, acetomethyl ester (BCECF-AM), then assayed for their ability to migrate to zymosan-activated serum (ZAS). Cell migration was quantified by two methods: visual counting of cells and measuring cell fluorescence. Using the cell counts, comparison of unlabeled and fluorescently labeled macrophages demonstrated that BCECF-AM decreased the number of cells responding to ZAS, while calcein-AM had essentially no effect. Neither probe significantly affected the number of cells migrating to medium alone. The inhibitory effects of BCECF-AM on cell migration increased with probe concentration (0.1-1.0 microM) and cell fluorescence. Cell viability was unaffected by either probe. In contrast to the results obtained by visual counting, measuring fluorescence of migrated cells did not reveal a significant difference between the chemotactic response of macrophages labeled with BCECF-AM and those labeled with calcein-AM. These experiments indicated that fluorescent probes can affect the chemotactic response and that inhibitory activity of these probes may not be detected when chemotaxis is quantified solely by automated methods.
pdf at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cyto.990190412/pdf