Measuring Proliferation of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells Using Click Chemistry

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The ability of a cell to proliferate is integral to the normal function of most cells, and dysregulation of proliferation is at the heart of many disease processes. For these reasons, measuring proliferation is a common tool used to assess cell function. Cell proliferation can be measured simply by counting; however, this is an indirect means of measuring proliferation. One common means of directly detecting cells preparing to divide is by incorporation of labeled nucleoside analogs. These include the radioactive nucleoside analog 3H-thymidine plus non-radioactive nucleoside analogs such as 5-bromo-2’ deoxyuridine (BrdU) and 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine (EdU). Incorporation of EdU is detected by click chemistry, which has several advantages when compared to BrdU. In this report, we provide a protocol for measuring proliferation by the incorporation of EdU. This protocol includes options for various readouts, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each. We also discuss places where the protocol can be optimized or altered to meet the specific needs of the experiment planned. Finally, we touch on the ways that this basic protocol can be modified for measuring other cell metabolites.