Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 76, Issue 23, pp 4725–4743 | Cite as

Versatile cell ablation tools and their applications to study loss of cell functions

  • Fengming Liu
  • Shen Dai
  • Dechun Feng
  • Xiao Peng
  • Zhongnan Qin
  • Alison C. Kearns
  • Wenfei Huang
  • Yong Chen
  • Süleyman Ergün
  • Hong Wang
  • Jay Rappaport
  • Elizabeth C. Bryda
  • Anand Chandrasekhar
  • Bertal Aktas
  • Hongzhen Hu
  • Sulie L. Chang
  • Bin Gao
  • Xuebin QinEmail author


Targeted cell ablation is a powerful approach for studying the role of specific cell populations in a variety of organotypic functions, including cell differentiation, and organ generation and regeneration. Emerging tools for permanently or conditionally ablating targeted cell populations and transiently inhibiting neuronal activities exhibit a diversity of application and utility. Each tool has distinct features, and none can be universally applied to study different cell types in various tissue compartments. Although these tools have been developed for over 30 years, they require additional improvement. Currently, there is no consensus on how to select the tools to answer the specific scientific questions of interest. Selecting the appropriate cell ablation technique to study the function of a targeted cell population is less straightforward than selecting the method to study a gene’s functions. In this review, we discuss the features of the various tools for targeted cell ablation and provide recommendations for optimal application of specific approaches.


Animal models Optogenetics Chemogenetics Clodronate-liposome Thymidine kinase (TK) Bacterial nitroreductase (NTR) Caspase Diphtheria toxin (DT) Human CD59 Intermedilysin (ILY) Cell interaction 


Authors’ contributions

FL, SD, DF, XP, ZQ, ACK, WH, YC, SE, HW, JR, ECB, AC, BA, HH, SLC, BG, and XQ wrote the paper. ZQ and XB drew the pictures and generated table. XB developed the idea.


This work was supported by R21OD024931 (XQ), R21AA024984 (SLC and XQ), R21 DA043448 (SLC and XQ), R01 HL130233 (XQ), R01HL141132 (XQ) and P40 OD011062 (ECB).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that no conflict of interest exists.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fengming Liu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shen Dai
    • 1
  • Dechun Feng
    • 4
  • Xiao Peng
    • 1
  • Zhongnan Qin
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Alison C. Kearns
    • 1
  • Wenfei Huang
    • 5
  • Yong Chen
    • 1
    • 6
  • Süleyman Ergün
    • 7
  • Hong Wang
    • 1
  • Jay Rappaport
    • 8
  • Elizabeth C. Bryda
    • 9
  • Anand Chandrasekhar
    • 10
  • Bertal Aktas
    • 11
  • Hongzhen Hu
    • 12
  • Sulie L. Chang
    • 5
  • Bin Gao
    • 4
  • Xuebin Qin
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of NeuroscienceLewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Comparative PathologyTulane National Primate Research CenterCovingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Immunology and MicrobiologyTulane University School of MedicineNew OrleansUSA
  4. 4.Laboratory of Liver DiseasesNational Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  5. 5.Institute of NeuroImmune PharmacologySeton Hall UniversitySouth OrangeUSA
  6. 6.Key Lab for Immunology in Universities of Shandong Province, School of Clinical MedicineWeifang Medical UniversityWeifangPeople’s Republic of China
  7. 7.Institute of Anatomy and Cell BiologyJulius-Maximillan UniversityWurzburgGermany
  8. 8.Division of PathologyTulane National Primate Research CenterCovingtonUSA
  9. 9.Rat Resource and Research CenterUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  10. 10.Division of Biological Sciences, 340D Life Sciences CenterUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  11. 11.Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  12. 12.Department of Anesthesiology, Center for the Study of ItchWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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