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Cryobiology. 2008 Oct;57(2):91-103. doi: 10.1016/j.cryobiol.2008.06.002. Epub 2008 Jun 13.

T cell responses in fresh and cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells: kinetics of cell viability, cellular subsets, proliferation, and cytokine production.

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  • 1Cell Biology and Immunology Group, Wageningen University, Marijkeweg 40, 6709 PG Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Polyclonal stimuli like phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) plus calcium ionophore (Ca-I), concanavalin A (ConA) or anti-CD3 plus anti-CD28 (alphaCD3/alphaCD28) are widely used T cell stimuli. All three stimuli act at different sites and in different ways to activate the T cell receptor pathway and are widely used in different concentrations, stimulation durations and read-out systems. This study was designed to establish the most suitable polyclonal stimulus in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) experiments by assessing the kinetics of cell viability, present immunophenotypes, proliferation, and cytokine production of the PBMC. In addition, changes in these read-out parameters due to cryopreservation have been investigated by comparing fresh and cryopreserved PBMC cultures at days 1, 3, 5, and 7. This study showed a reduction in the cytokine levels after cryopreservation of PMA/Ca-I stimulated PBMC, whereas no significant differences due to the cryopreservation were observed in ConA or alphaCD3/alphaCD28 stimulated PBMC. Cryopreservation did not alter the maximal proliferation capacity of ConA or alphaCD3/alphaCD28 stimulated PBMC, whereas it did delay the proliferation. Although cryopreservation had no effect on the CD3+CD4+ or CD3+CD8+ T cell subsets, PMA/Ca-I significantly reduced the amount of both T cell subsets over time. In conclusion, PMA/Ca-I is suitable as a positive control in experiments where high cytokine production is expected and only fresh PBMC are used. Proliferation and effects on the T cell subsets in long-term PBMC cultures should use ConA or alphaCD3/alphaCD28 as positive control.

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