Fluorochromes for DNA Staining and Quantitation

  • Giuliano MazziniEmail author
  • Marco Danova
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1560)


In these last few decades the great explosion of the molecular approaches has casted a little shadow on the DNA quantitative analysis. Nevertheless DNA cytochemistry represented a long piece of history in cell biology since the advent of the Feulgen reaction. This discovery was really the milestone of the emerging quantitative cytochemistry, and scientists from all over the world produced a very large literature on this subject. This first era of quantitation (histochemistry followed by cytochemistry) started by means of absorption measurements (histophotometry and cytophotometry). The successive introduction of fluorescence microscopy gave a great boost to quantitation, making easier and faster the determination of cell components by means of cytofluorometry. The development of flow cytometry further contributed to the importance of quantitative cytochemistry. At its beginning, the mission of flow cytometry was still DNA quantitation. For a decade the Feulgen reaction had been the reference methodology for both conventional and flow cytofluorometry; the advent of Shiff-type reagents contributed to expand the variety of possible fluorochromes excitable in the entire visible spectrum as well as in the ultraviolet region. The fluorescence scenario was progressively enriched by new probes among which are the intercalating dyes which made DNA quantitation simple and fast, thus spreading it worldwide. The final explosion of cytofluorometry was made possible by the availability of a large variety of probes directly binding DNA structure. In addition, immunofluorescence allowed to correlate the cell cycle-related DNA content to other cell markers. In the clinical application of flow cytometry, this promoted the introduction of multiparametric analyses aimed at describing the cytokinetic characteristics of a given cell subpopulation defined by a specific immunophenotype setting.

Key words

DNA content Quantitative cytochemistry Fluorochromes Fluorescence microscopy Flow cytometry 



The authors acknowledge Emanuela Cova for helpful discussion and contribution, and Carlo Pellicciari for his precious assistance in finding archival documents and pictures.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Molecular GeneticsCNRPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Biotechnology “Lazzaro Spallanzani”University of PaviaPaviaItaly
  3. 3.Department of MedicineAzienda Socio-Sanitaria Territoriale of PaviaPaviaItaly

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