Dyes and stains

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Live cell stains

There don't appear to be many dyes that selectively stain live cells. When people want to detect live cells, I think that what they do is the following: "The principle of this approach is to use simultaneously a permeant (SYBR Green [more recently SYTO green]; Molecular Probes) and an impermeant (propidium iodide) probe and to take advantage of the energy transfer which occurs between them when both probes are staining nucleic acids. A full quenching of the permeant probe fluorescence by the impermeant probe will point to cells with a compromised membrane, a partial quenching will indicate cells with a slightly damaged membrane, and a lack of quenching will characterize intact membrane cells identified as viable." From Applied and Environmental Microbiology, October 2001, p. 4662-4670, Vol. 67, No. 10. So most stains that people bill as live cell stains are only membrane permeant stains and therefore stain both live and dead cells.

There a number of dyes from Molecular Probes that are supposedly pretty good at staining live cells a particular color. For example, their BacLight Bacterial Membrane Potential kit uses a dye DiOC2 that is green in all cells, but turns red upon concentration at the cell membrane if there is an active proton gradient. Also, there are dyes that measure redox potential of live cells through reduction of C12-resazurin --Sri Kosuri 14:29, 29 Apr 2005 (EDT)