Flow cytometry has been examined as a method to separate islet cells into homogeneous subpopulations. Collagenase-isolated rat islets were dissociated into single cells and these were analyzed and sorted according to their low forward angle light scattering properties by using automated flow cytometry. Light scatter histograms showed two peaks of viable cells. Radioimmunoassay of hormone content in cell fractions collected across the two peaks showed that glucagon- containing cells were concentrated towards the left side of the left peak and somatostatin-containing cells were concentrated towards the right side of the left peak, whereas insulin-containing cells were clearly enriched in the right peak. The B-cell-enriched fraction (90% B cells, 3% A cells, 2% D cells) exhibited significant insulin secretory responses to glucose (16.7 mM), and 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (0.1 mM), during a 24-h culture period, and these responses were slightly greater than those observed in the original mixed islet cell preparation (66% B cells, 14% A cells, and 4% D cells). These results indicate that flow cytometry can be applied to sort pancreatic islet cells into populations enriched in specific endocrine cell types for further study of the functions of individual cell types.

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