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Robust expression of CCR3 as a single basophil selection marker in flow cytometry


  • Edited by: Thomas Bieber

Dr. med. Oliver V. Hausmann, Department of Rheumatology, Clinical Immunology and Allergology, all Inselspital, University Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
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To cite this article: Hausmann OV, Gentinetta T, Fux M, Ducrest S, Pichler WJ, Dahinden CA. Robust expression of CCR3 as a single basophil selection marker in flow cytometry. Allergy 2011; 66: 85–91.


Background:  Basophil activation tests (BAT) rely on different combinations of basophil selection and activation markers. Whereas activation markers, especially CD63, are widely validated, the most suitable and robust marker for basophil selection is still a matter of debate.

Aims:  Comparison of cell surface expression of two commonly used basophil selection markers (IgE, CD123/HLA-DR) with CCR3 in an unselected group of atopic and nonatopic donors in resting and activated basophils.

Methods:  EDTA blood of 94 healthy adults, about half of them atopic by history, was analyzed using two different staining strategies: anti-CD123-PE/anti-HLA-DR-PerCP/anti-lin1-FITC and anti-IgE-FITC/anti-CD3-PerCP/anti-CCR3-PE. Additionally 40 pollen-allergic patients were recruited for the assessment of CCR3 expression after basophil activation.

Results:  In resting basophils, cell surface expression of the three basophil selection markers was most constant for CCR3. IgE gating strategy showed the highest variation and up to 80% of nonbasophils in the selected gate in certain donors.

During basophil activation, a shift of the mean fluorescence intensity for CCR3 toward the lower third of the CCR3-positive population could be demonstrated, but neither were CCR3-positive cells significantly lost for further analysis nor was differentiation between CCR3-positive and CCR3-negative cell populations hampered by this shift.

Conclusions:  CCR3 is a stable and highly expressed basophil selection marker, independent of the atopic background or basophil activation state and allows an accurate identification of basophils without need of a second marker. The basophil markers CD123/HLA-DR and IgE showed significantly higher interindividual variability in cell surface expression and are therefore less suited as selection markers.