AbstractBackgroundFluorescence-based cell-free assays offer an attractive alternative to current cell-based assays for measuring the redox activity of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL). We have recently developed a biochemical assay that assesses the effect of HDL on the oxidation rate of dihydrorhodamine 123 (DHR), reflected by increasing fluorescence over time. However, an immediate reduction in the fluorescence signal is observed after addition of HDL to DHR, due to fluorescence quenching from lipid-probe interactions. Understanding this process is important for interpretation of the results of all fluorescence-based cell-free assays that measure oxidative properties of lipids.MethodsWe determined the effect of quenchers (proteins or lipids) on the fluorescence signal of two fluorescence-based cell-free assays: the rhodamine 123 (RHD)-based assay, and a previously described assay based on dichlorodihydrofluorescein (DCF) in patients with systemic inflammation or atherosclerosis versus healthy subjects.ResultsWe found lipid-probe interactions between the non-fluorescent substrate and the lipid, which affect the observed rate of change of fluorescence after addition of lipids to DHR and DCFH. These interactions depended on: sample collection and storage, types and concentrations of lipid and fluorescent probe, method of HDL isolation, diluents and matrices, and pH. The RHD-based assay yielded reproducible measurements despite fluorescence quenching, while the DCF-based assay displayed more experimental variability. Furthermore, the lipid-probe interactions varied according to the setting of systemic inflammation when using apolipoprotein (apo) B-depleted plasma. However, under fixed conditions the rhodamine assay could reliably detect similar mean relative differences in the redox activity of HDL samples between different groups of patients using either purified HDL or apo-B depleted plasma.ConclusionsLipid-probe interactions should be considered when interpreting the results of fluorescence assays for measuring lipid oxidative state. Ideally, samples should be freshly obtained and purified HDL should be utilized rather than Apo B-depleted serum. Assay variability can be reduced by strict standardization of conditions (particularly sample collection, storage, lipid isolation method). Data comparisons between different studies similarly require strict standardization of conditions between studies and this caveat must be considered when using these assays to study the role of HDL function in the development of atherosclerosis in vivo.