Alternatives to the use of radioisotopes to measure cell proliferation in mixed lymphocyte reactions (MLR) are desirable to avoid the hazards and costs associated with radioisotope use. The versatile fluorochrome 5,6-carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester (CFSE) has been used to measure MLR and provides the opportunity to measure several different growth parameters. This study was aimed at determining which growth parameter is most practical and suitable for measuring murine MLR. The parameters measured were: the relative number of daughter T-cells, the relative number and frequency of reactive T-cell precursors and the relative number of mitotic events. Responder cells were CFSE-labeled unfractionated splenocytes from C57BL/6 mice. Stimulator cells included irradiated splenocytes from C57BL/6 (control), B6D2F(1) (haplo-allogeneic) or FVB/N (allogeneic) mice. Cultures were harvested daily for 1 week. Stimulator T-cells rapidly declined to less than 0.2-0.3% of the mixed population by day 2 of culture. Experimental groups had a significantly higher number of daughter T-cells and mitotic events after 2 days of culture with the number of daughter T-cells climbing exponentially after 5 days of culture. The number and frequency of reactive T-cell precursors were significantly higher in experimental groups on days 2-3, but this difference became insignificant by day 4. Among all the parameters, the relative number of daughter T-cells was the most practical for measuring MLR, after 5 days of culture, based upon the growth kinetics of responder T-cells and the survival of the stimulator cells. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.