Immuno flow cytometry in marine phytoplankton research


  • L. Peperzak 1National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management / RIKZ
  • E. G. Vrieling University of Groningen, Dept. of Marine Biology
  • B. Sandee 1National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management / RIKZ
  • T. Rutten 1National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management / RIKZ



flow cytometry, immunology, marine phytoplankton, fluorescence, European Optical Plankton Analyser (EurOPA), physiology, antibodies


The developments in the combination of flow cytometry and immunology as a tool to identify, count and examine marine phytoplankton cells are reviewed. The concepts of immunology and flow cytometry are described. A distinction is made between quantitative and qualitative immunofluorescence. Quantitative immunofluorescence, the identification and enumeration of phytoplankton cells, is the research area that has advanced rapidly in the past decade, and is reviewed extensively. Key steps of quantitative immunofluorescence, fixation and immunolabel intensity, are discussed in more detail. Qualitative immunofluorescence is a new, hardly explored but highly interesting development in which qualitative -physiological- variables related to e.g. nutrient limitation or primary production are measured in individual cells instead of phytoplankton populations as a whole. Several combinations of immunological probes, both for species identification and for physiological measurements, are proposed. A special case of qualitative immunofluorescence is the measurement of phytoplankton toxins in single cells from natural populations. It is anticipated that the future use of semiconductor nanocrystals or quantum dots as fluorophores will greatly enhance signal detection in flow cytometry, and hence in both quantitative and qualitative immunofluorescence applications.


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How to Cite

Peperzak L, Vrieling EG, Sandee B, Rutten T. Immuno flow cytometry in marine phytoplankton research. scimar [Internet]. 2000Jun.30 [cited 2021Jan.22];64(2):165-81. Available from: