Multiphoton flow cytometry strategies and applications



A handful of research teams around the world have recently begun to utilize multiphoton techniques in cytometry, especially for in vivo applications. These approaches offer similar enhancements to flow cytometry as the multiphoton phenomenon brought to the field of microscopy at the turn of the 20th century, with at least six advantages over single-photon excitation. Here, we review the published literature on multiphoton cytometry in vivo or in vitro from the initial experiments in 1999 to present. Multiphoton cytometry instrumentation set-ups vary from adapted multiphoton microscopy to a dedicated system, with laser pulse power and repetition rate serving as important variables. Two-beam geometry enables quantitation of cell size. Labeling strategies include conjugated fluorophore targeting, with folate and/or dendrimer platforms. With two-color measurement, ratiometric labeling is also possible, where one dye serves as a trigger to indicate the amount of excitation a cell receives, and another informs of cellular function. With two-color labeling, geometric fluorophore distribution proves important in theory and experiment for detection sensitivity curves and detected event intensity correlation. The main biological achievements to date using this young technology are reviewed, with emphasis on real-time monitoring of minute-by-minute and long-term cell dynamics as well as the clinically significant surveillance of circulating tumor cells. For this goal, minimally invasive two-photon flow cytometry with a fiber probe may overcome the primary issue of sample volume. The technique of multicolor, multiphoton flow cytometry greatly enhances the capabilities of flow cytometry to investigate the dynamics of circulating cells in cancer and other important diseases, and may in the future benefit from advances in microscopy such as super-resolution imaging, coherent control, and bioluminescence. © 2011 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry