HTPS flow cytometry: a novel platform for automated high throughput drug discovery and characterization.
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The flow cytometer is unique among biomedical analysis instruments because it makes simultaneous and multiple optical measurements on individual cells or particles at high rates. High throughput flow cytometry represents a potentially important multifactorial approach for screening large combinatorial libraries of compounds. Limiting this approach has been the availability of instrumentation and methods in flow cytometry for automated sample handling on the scale required for drug discovery applications. Here, we describe an automated system in which a novel patented fluidics-based pharmacology platform, the HTPS (High Throughput Pharmacological System), is coupled to a flow cytometer using a recently described plug flow-coupling valve technology. Individual samples are aspirated sequentially from microplate wells and delivered to a flow cytometer for rapid multiparametric analysis. For primary screening to detect and quantify cell fluorescence in endpoint assays, a high-speed no-wash protocol enabled processing of 9-10 cell samples/min from 96-well microplates. In an alternate primary screening format, soluble receptor ligands were sampled from microplate wells at rates of 3-4 samples/minute and successfully assessed for the ability to elicit intracellular calcium responses. Experiments with fluorescent beads validated the accurate automated production by the HTPS of exponential and linear gradients of soluble compounds. This feature enabled rapid (2- to 3-min) characterization of the intracellular calcium dose response of myeloid cells to formyl peptide as well as the quantitative relationship between formyl peptide receptor occupancy and cell response. HTPS flow cytometry thus represents a powerful high throughput multifactorial approach to increase the efficiency with which novel bioresponse-modifying drugs may be identified and characterized.