The ploidy distribution of megakaryocytes shifts in response to platelet demand and thus provides a sensitive index of megakaryocytopoiesis. Flow cytometry (FCM) is a potentially valuable method for rapid determination of ploidy distributions of megakaryocyte populations; however, because megakaryocytes constitute only a very small proportion of the cells in unfractionated marrow, other rare events, such as cell clumping, complicate FCM analysis. We describe the measurement of cellular DNA distributions of megakaryocytes by two- color FCM in unfixed, unfractionated marrow--a method based on the resistance of megakaryocytes to hypotonic lysis in the cold for at least 2 days. Specific platelet antiserum was used to label megakaryocytes by indirect immunofluorescence with fluorescein (green fluorescence), and DNA was stained with propidium iodide (red fluorescence) in hypotonic citrate solution. The ploidy distribution of megakaryocytes was selectively determined with two-color, green-gated FCM, with which the red and green fluorescence of all cells is analyzed, but only the red fluorescence (DNA content) of cells that specifically bound the platelet antibody is recorded. We demonstrate that this method can readily detect changes in megakaryocyte DNA distributions due to experimental thrombocytopenia or platelet hypertransfusion and, therefore, should be useful for both experimental and clinical investigations of megakaryocytopoiesis.

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