A statistical analysis of flow cytometric determinations of phagocytosis rates

A. G. Fredrickson, Christos Hatzis, Friedrich Srienc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Uptake of particles by phagocytosing cells is a process that exhibits variability of its rate. This variability is inherent in the mechanism of particle uptake and in the mechanisms that determine the distribution of physiological states within a population of phagocytosing cells. When numbers of particles ingested by cells are determined flow cytometrically an additional measurement variability is superimposed on and interacts with the aforementioned biological variability. In one method of determining population phagocytosis parameters, which involves fitting theoretical equations to experimental time course data on the fractions of cells which have ingested 0, 1, 2, particles, the effects of measurement variability are circumvented, although this usually has the cost of not using all the sample data obtained. However, in a second, simpler, method which is based on determining the time course of the number of particles ingested by an average cell, measurement variability is not circumvented and its effects must be considered. An analysis of the combined effects of biological and measurement variability on the results obtained with the simpler method is presented in this paper. Experimental results for phagocytosis of latex microspheres of uniform size and fluorochrome content by populations of the ciliate Tetrahymena pyriformis show that, for this system, measurement variability is entirely negligible in comparison with biological variability. This conclusion might not apply to other systems, however, and situations which might make measurement variability of some significance are mentioned in the paper. The equations given can be used for the analysis of such situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-431
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1992


  • Flow cytometry
  • biological variability
  • feeding rate
  • filter feeding
  • measurement variability
  • particle uptake rate
  • statistical treatment


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