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A simple way to identify non-viable cells within living plant tissue using confocal microscopy

Elisabeth Truernit12* and Jim Haseloff1

Author Affiliations

1 University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences, Downing Site, Cambridge, CB2 3EA, UK

2 INRA, Centre de Versailles, Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin, Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire, Route de St-Cyr, 78026 Versailles cedex, France

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Plant Methods 2008, 4:15  doi:10.1186/1746-4811-4-15

Published: 23 June 2008



Plant cell death is a normal process during plant development. Mutant plants may exhibit misregulation of this process, which can lead to severe growth defects. Simple ways of visualising cell death in living plant tissues can aid the study of plant development and physiology.


Spectral variants of the fluorescent SYTOX dyes were tested for their usefulness for the detection of non-viable cells within plant embryos and roots using confocal laser-scanning microscopy. The dyes were selective for non-viable cells and showed very little background staining in living cells. Simultaneous detection of SYTOX dye and fluorescent protein (e.g. GFP) fluorescence was possible.


The fluorescent SYTOX dyes are useful for an easy and quick first assay of plant cell viability in living plant samples using fluorescence and confocal laser-scanning microscopy.