In-Cell Western™ Assay Quality Assessment using Z’-Factor

If you have been following my posts for the past two months or so, you know we have been looking a great deal at In-Cell Western Assays (also called In-Cell ELISAs or plate-based immunofluorescent assays). On April 3, I explained what an ICW Assay is. From there we looked at examples of how In-Cell Westerns are used (studying apoptosis, for IC50 Determinations), seeding plates for In-Cell Westerns), ICW kits LI-COR® offers, and using cells in suspension, plate selection for ICW Assays, and cell lines that have been tested for use with this powerful immunocytochemical assay.

So you are hopefully ready to give this technique a try. When you do, it is important to assess the overall quality and reliability of the assay during In-Cell Western (ICW) assay optimization. The Z’-factor statistic provides a way to evaluate whether or not assay conditions (reagents, protocols, instrumentation, kinetics, and other conditions not directly related to the test compounds) are optimized. Z’-factor, introduced by Zhang et al., is a dimensionless value that represents both the variability and the dynamic range between two sets of sample control data.

Z’-factor experiments are performed on one or more ICW assay plates containing replicate wells designated for background subtraction, negative control samples, and positive control samples. Typically, negative control wells are those in which the cells receive an the appropriate treatment so as to elicit the lowest desired percent response (usually untreated cells); positive control wells are those in which the cells receive an appropriate treatment so as to elicit the maximum desired percent response; background wells are treated the same as the negative control wells, except primary antibody incubation is excluded.

Example of Z' Factor Data Plot

Here are some resources so that you can read more about the Z’-Factor, how to set up the experiments to assess it, and its importance in ensuring you have a high quality, reliable assay method:
Using the Z’-Factor Coefficient to Monitor Quality of Near-Infrared Fluorescent Cell-Based Assays
In-Cell Western Assay Quality Assessment Using Z’-Factor Data Sheet

Read more about Reproducibility and Precision in In-Cell Western Assays.