The population dynamics of single-cell stimulation was analyzed by monitoring autofluorescence by flow cytometry. Stimulation of the respiratory burst in human neutrophils by 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) caused a decline in highly fluorescent cells (characteristic of resting neutrophils) and a corresponding increase in the number of weakly fluorescent cells (characteristic of activated neutrophils). Increasing concentrations of TPA caused increasing numbers of cells to shift from the highly fluorescent population to the weakly fluorescent population without the appearance of intermediate populations. Thus the neutrophil respiratory burst, a component of neutrophil cytotoxic response, is triggered in an all-or none fashion.
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