An Automated Method to Perform The In vitro Micronucleus Assay using Multispectral Imaging Flow Cytometry

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


The in vitro micronucleus (MN) assay is often used to evaluate cytotoxicity and genotoxicity but scoring the assay via manual microscopy is laborious and introduces uncertainty in results due to variability between scorers. To remedy this, automated slide-scanning microscopy as well as conventional flow cytometry methods have been introduced in an attempt to remove scorer bias and improve throughput. However, these methods have their own inherent limitations such as inability to visualize the cytoplasm of the cell and the lack of visual MN verification or image data storage with flow cytometry. Multispectral Imaging Flow Cytometry (MIFC) has the potential to overcome these limitations. MIFC combines the high resolution fluorescent imagery of microscopy with the statistical robustness and speed of conventional flow cytometry. In addition, all collected imagery can be stored in dose-specific files. This paper describes the protocol developed to perform a fully automated version of the MN assay on MIFC. Human lymphoblastoid TK6 cells were enlarged using a hypotonic solution (75 mM KCl), fixed with 4% formalin and the nuclear content was stained with Hoechst 33342. All samples were run in suspension on the MIFC, permitting acquisition of high resolution images of all key events required for the assay (e.g. binucleated cells with and without MN as well as mononucleated and polynucleated cells). Images were automatically identified, categorized and enumerated in the MIFC data analysis software, allowing for automated scoring of both cytotoxicity and genotoxicity. Results demonstrate that using MIFC to perform the in vitro MN assay allows statistically significant increases in MN frequency to be detected at several different levels of cytotoxicity when compared to solvent controls following exposure of TK6 cells to mitomycin C and colchicine, and that no significant increases in MN frequency are observed following exposure to mannitol.