BrdU vs. Ki67

What's the Difference?

BrdU (bromodeoxyuridine) and Ki67 are both commonly used markers to assess cell proliferation in various biological studies. However, they differ in their mechanisms and applications. BrdU is a thymidine analog that incorporates into newly synthesized DNA during the S phase of the cell cycle. It can be detected using specific antibodies or fluorescent dyes, providing information about the actively dividing cells. On the other hand, Ki67 is a nuclear protein expressed in all phases of the cell cycle except for the G0 phase. It is widely used as an immunohistochemical marker to determine the proliferative index of cells in tissues. While BrdU directly labels dividing cells, Ki67 indirectly reflects the proportion of cells actively progressing through the cell cycle. Therefore, both BrdU and Ki67 offer valuable insights into cell proliferation, but their methods of detection and interpretation differ.


FunctionLabels newly synthesized DNA during S-phase of cell cycleIndicates actively proliferating cells
Detection MethodImmunohistochemistry or immunofluorescenceImmunohistochemistry or immunofluorescence
Cell Cycle PhaseS-phaseAny proliferative phase
SpecificitySpecific for DNA synthesisSpecific for proliferating cells
ApplicationUsed to measure cell proliferation rateUsed to assess cell proliferation and tumor growth

Further Detail


When it comes to studying cell proliferation and DNA synthesis, researchers often rely on specific markers to identify and quantify dividing cells. Two commonly used markers in this field are BrdU (5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine) and Ki67. Both BrdU and Ki67 play crucial roles in cell cycle analysis and are widely utilized in various research areas, including cancer biology, developmental biology, and regenerative medicine. In this article, we will explore the attributes of BrdU and Ki67, highlighting their similarities and differences, and discussing their applications in scientific research.


Although BrdU and Ki67 differ in their mechanisms of action and detection methods, they share several similarities in terms of their applications and significance in cell proliferation studies.

  • Both BrdU and Ki67 are markers used to identify actively dividing cells.
  • They provide valuable information about the proliferative state of cells and can be used to assess cell cycle progression.
  • Both markers are commonly employed in immunohistochemistry (IHC) and immunofluorescence (IF) techniques to visualize and quantify dividing cells within tissues or cell cultures.
  • They are widely used in cancer research to evaluate tumor growth rates, predict prognosis, and assess the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies.
  • Both BrdU and Ki67 are essential tools for studying tissue regeneration, embryonic development, and other biological processes that involve cell proliferation.


BrdU is a thymidine analog that incorporates into newly synthesized DNA during the S phase of the cell cycle. It is commonly used to label dividing cells and track their proliferation over time. BrdU can be administered to living organisms or added directly to cell cultures, allowing researchers to study cell proliferation in various experimental models.

One of the key advantages of BrdU is its ability to provide temporal information about cell division. By administering BrdU at different time points, researchers can determine the rate of cell proliferation and the duration of specific cell cycle phases. This temporal resolution is particularly useful in developmental biology studies, where the timing of cell division events is critical.

However, BrdU has some limitations. It requires DNA denaturation steps during the detection process, which can lead to potential loss of antigenicity and affect the quality of immunostaining. Additionally, BrdU labeling is not suitable for live cell imaging, as the incorporation of BrdU requires cell fixation and DNA denaturation, preventing real-time tracking of dividing cells.


Ki67 is a nuclear protein that is expressed during all active phases of the cell cycle (G1, S, G2, and mitosis), but absent in resting (quiescent) cells (G0). It serves as a reliable marker for cell proliferation and is widely used in both research and clinical settings.

One of the major advantages of Ki67 is its compatibility with formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues, which are commonly used in clinical pathology. Ki67 immunohistochemistry allows pathologists to assess the proliferative index of tumor cells, aiding in cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment decisions.

Moreover, Ki67 staining can be combined with other markers to gain additional insights into cell proliferation and differentiation. For example, co-staining Ki67 with specific lineage markers can help identify proliferating cells within distinct cell populations, providing a more comprehensive understanding of tissue dynamics.

However, it is important to note that Ki67 staining alone does not provide information about the cell cycle phase or the duration of cell cycle stages. It only indicates the presence of actively dividing cells. Therefore, combining Ki67 staining with other markers, such as BrdU, can offer a more comprehensive analysis of cell proliferation dynamics.


Both BrdU and Ki67 find extensive applications in various research fields, contributing to our understanding of cell proliferation and its implications in health and disease.

In cancer research, BrdU and Ki67 are used to assess tumor growth rates, predict patient prognosis, and evaluate the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies. High Ki67 expression in tumor cells often correlates with aggressive tumor behavior and poor prognosis. Similarly, BrdU incorporation assays can provide insights into the proliferative potential of cancer cells and their response to therapeutic interventions.

In developmental biology, BrdU and Ki67 are employed to study tissue growth, organogenesis, and cell fate determination. By labeling dividing cells with BrdU or detecting Ki67 expression, researchers can track cell lineages, determine cell proliferation rates, and investigate the role of specific genes or signaling pathways in tissue development.

Furthermore, BrdU and Ki67 are valuable tools in regenerative medicine research. They help assess the regenerative capacity of tissues and organs, monitor the proliferation of stem cells, and evaluate the efficacy of tissue engineering approaches.


BrdU and Ki67 are indispensable markers in the field of cell proliferation research. While BrdU provides temporal information about cell division and is suitable for studying cell cycle dynamics, Ki67 serves as a reliable marker for actively dividing cells and finds extensive applications in clinical pathology. Both markers contribute to our understanding of cell proliferation in various research areas, including cancer biology, developmental biology, and regenerative medicine. By utilizing the strengths of BrdU and Ki67, researchers can gain comprehensive insights into cell proliferation dynamics and its implications in health and disease.

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