Basic and applied histochemistry

Compared flow cytometric analysis of mitochondria using 10-n-nonyl acridine orange and rhodamine 123.

PMID 2757602


The use of the supravital mitochondrial-specific dye Rhodamine 123 (Rh 123) in combination with flow cytometry permits the monitoring of the changes in the mitochondrial transmembrane potential, reflecting the overall mitochondrial activity of the living cell. While this probe appears to be a potent tool for these studies, it also exhibits an important limit in the interpretation of the results: it cannot distinguish between an increase in mitochondrial activity without biogenesis and a modification of mitochondrial content. 10-n-Nonyl Acridine Orange chloride (NAO) constitutes another mitochondrial specific fluorochrome. In contrast with Rh 123, NAO accumulation in the cell does not seem to be driven by the proton-motrice force but does seem to be related to specific interactions with mitochondrial membrane proteins and/or lipids. In this work, the cytotoxicity of NAO, the kinetics of cellular uptake and the release of the dye have been determined using flow cytometry. The use of several ionophores or mitochondrial inhibitors has confirmed the independence of NAO uptake regarding mitochondrial transmembrane potential. NAO was also used to examine the changes in the mitochondrial compartment during the transfer of articular chondrocytes from cartilage to the culture conditions, where Rh 123 evidenced changes in mitochondrial activity and/or biogenesis, in order to know whether the use of probes with different specificity allows one to distinguish between mitochondrial activity and biogenesis.

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Rhodamine 123, BioReagent, for fluorescence, ≥85% (HPLC)
C21H16N2O3 · HCl