Background Basophils are increasingly recognized as playing important roles in the immune responses of allergic diseases and helminth infections. One of the main obstacles to studying basophils has been the lack of a simple and rapid assay to measure basophil activation in mice.
Objective The purpose of this study was to develop an assay to measure murine basophil activation.
Methods Mouse blood cells were stained with various combinations of positive and negative markers for basophils – sorted and then assessed for basophil purity by May-Grünwald staining of cytospins. Once a flow cytometric strategy for staining basophils was determined, basophil surface expression of CD200R was assessed by multi-colour flow cytometry after stimulation of whole blood with anti-IgE, ionomycin or N-formyl MetLeuPhe (fMLP). Confirmation of basophil activation was assessed by concomitant staining of cells for intracellular IL-4. To test the ability of flow cytometric basophil CD200R measurements to assess for antigen-specific IgE-mediated activation of basophils, surface CD200R expression in response to in vitro stimulation with media alone, helminth antigen or ovalbumin was measured on basophils obtained from control mice, mice infected with helminths and mice sensitized to ovalbumin.
Results Using anti-IgE-FITC as a positive marker and a combination of anti-CD4-PERCP and anti-B220-PERCP as negative markers resulted in a well-separated basophil population. Additional staining with anti-CD200R-PE demonstrated that (1) basophil CD200R expression increases in response to anti-IgE, ionomycin and fMLP, (2) most CD200R-positive basophils also stain positively for IL-4 and (3) CD200R expression increases after antigen-specific activation of basophils in murine models of helminth disease and allergy.
Conclusion We developed a multi-colour flow cytometry assay that measures murine basophil activation by utilizing CD200R as an activation marker. This assay is straightforward and rapid, taking approximately half a day for obtaining blood, in vitro stimulation and flow cytometric analysis.