The present study shows that staining of certain live cells, e.g., adriamycin-resistant P388 cells, by Hoechst 33342 is difficult because of the presence of a rapid efflux pump, which reduces intracellular dye concentration. Coincubation of these refractory cells in the presence of efflux blockers such as phenothiazines (trifluoperazine) or Ca++ channel blockers (verapamil) enhances dye retention and thus leads to generation of normal DNA distribution histograms. Laser flow cytometric data is confirmed by fluorometric assays, which show that P388/R cells retain one-third the amount of Hoechst 33342, and coincubation with efflux blockers increases Hoechst retention to values similar to those of drug-sensitive P388 cells. DNA histograms of mouse splenocytes incubated with Hoechst 33342 alone have a bimodal distribution possibly because of the presence of subpopulations that do not retain the fluorochrome owing to rapid efflux. Coincubation with an efflux blocker results in the generation of unimodal DNA histograms from these cells.
These preliminary studies suggest that reduced retention of Hoechst 33342 in certain cell types (because of rapid efflux) can be blocked by efflux blockers, thus leading to generation of typical DNA distribution histograms.