Correction of cellular autofluorescence in flow cytometry by mathematical modeling of cellular fluorescence

James P. Corsetti, Stratis V. Sotirchos, Christopher Cox, Judith W. Cowles, James F. Leary, Neil Blumburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


A method for the correction of background fluorescence in flow cytometry with special relevance to the quantitation of low levels of cellular surface membrane antigens is presented. The method is based on the mathematical modeling of cellular fluorescence distributions of background fluorescence (autofluorescence control or irrelevant antibody control) and total fluorescence (positively stained cells). Algorithms based on two models and utilizing only the routinely available background and total fluorescence histograms are developed and implemented in computer programs. These allow estimation of the fluorescence histogram corresponding exclusively to immunofluorescence staining of the cell surface antigen of interest. Thus, the correction of background fluorescence is effected solely with software processing of routinely available data; no additional hardware or parameter determinations are necessary. Two models were chosen to be physically plausible and to represent extremes in correlation between background and probe fluorescence. Extremes were chosen to assess the solution dependence on model and to provide bounds to the actual solution when no information on correlation is available. Results are presented for both computer simulations and for an actual assay of the CR1 complement receptor on human erythrocytes to test and illustrate the technique. Alternatively, data can be tested assuming a particular model to explore the relationship, if any, between specific and nonspecific fluorescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-547
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • CR1 complement receptor
  • Immunofluorescence quantitation
  • deconvolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Hematology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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