Quantification of Proliferative and Dead Cells in Enteroids

* These authors contributed equally
This article has been accepted and is currently in production


The intestinal epithelium acts as a barrier that prevents luminal contents, such as pathogenic microbiota and toxins, from entering the rest of the body. Epithelial barrier function requires the integrity of intestinal epithelial cells. While epithelial cell proliferation maintains a continuous layer of cells that forms a barrier, epithelial damage leads to barrier dysfunction. As a result, luminal contents can across the intestinal barrier via an unrestricted pathway. Dysfunction of intestinal barrier has been associated with many intestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease. Isolated mouse intestinal crypts can be cultured and maintained as crypt-villus-like structures, which are termed intestinal organoids or “enteroids”. Enteroids are ideal to study the proliferation and cell death of intestinal epithelial cells in vitro. In this protocol, we describe a simple method to quantify the number of proliferative and dead cells in cultured enteroids. 5-ethynyl-2’-deoxyuridine (EdU) and propidium iodide are used to label proliferating and dead cells in enteroids, and the proportion of proliferating and dead cells are then analyzed by flow cytometry. This is a useful tool to test the effects of drug treatment on intestinal epithelial cell proliferation and cell survival.