From flow cytometric BrdUrd data to cell population growth and doubling time

Alessandro Torricelli, Matteo Bisiach, Lorenzo Spinelli, Paolo Ubezio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe a direct way to use flow cytometric data for measuring the growth curve of a cell population. The starting point is analysis of the intrinsic informative content of the time course, after bromodeoxyuridine (BrdUrd) labeling, of the percentages of cells detected within four windows of biparametric BrdUrd-DNA histograms. We did not introduce a particular cell cycle model or use the hypothesis of exponential growth. We obtained a simple formal proof of the existence of four independent formulae connecting the flow cytometric data and the relative growth curve of the cell population. The formulae were then challenged in a number of simulated kinetic scenarios, moving away from their expected limits of validity. The results suggest additional uses of the formulae and a way of estimating cell-cycle-phase durations. Considering exponential growth in the presence of cell loss, the formulae were used to estimate the potential doubling time from a single flow cytometric measure vs. other procedures that additionally require an estimate of the duration of the phase S. The theoretical precision of the procedures may differ depending on how cell loss occurs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-232
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 1997


  • Cell loss
  • Computer simulations
  • DNA-BrdUrd flow cytometry
  • Potential doubling time
  • Tumor growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Endocrinology


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