The metachromatic fluorochrome acridine orange was used to differentially stain DNA and RNA in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells and in mitogen-stimulated human lymphocytes during their progression through the cell cycle. Green and red fluorescence of individual cells, representing cellular DNA and RNA, respectively, was measured by flow cytometry.
CHO cells were synchronized by selective detachment at mitosis. Their rate of progression through G1 and subsequently through S phase correlated with the content of stainable RNA. The mean duration of the G1 phase was 5.2 hours for cells with high RNA content (highest 25 percentile population) and 8.1 hours for cells with low RNA (lowest 25 percentile). The duration of S phase was 5.9 and 7.5 hours for high- and low-RNA, 25 percentile subpopulations, respectively.
Lymphocytes synchronized at the G1/S boundary by hydroxyurea or 5-fluorodeoxyuridine showed extremely high intecellular variation with respect to content of stainable RNA. After release from the block they traversed S phase at rates linearly proportional to the content of stainable RNA. The duration of S phase was five hours for cells with high RNA-, six to nine hours for cells with moderate RNA- and up to 27 hours for cells with minimal RNA-content.
The data suggest that the rate of progression the cell cycle of individual cells within a population may be correlated with the number of ribosomes per cell.