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Nat Methods. 2009 Jul;6(7):520-6. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.1345. Epub 2009 Jun 21.

Parallel detection of antigen-specific T-cell responses by multidimensional encoding of MHC multimers.

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  • 1Division of Immunology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The use of fluorescently labeled major histocompatibility complex multimers has become an essential technique for analyzing disease- and therapy-induced T-cell immunity. Whereas classical major histocompatibility complex multimer analyses are well-suited for the detection of immune responses to a few epitopes, limitations on human-subject sample size preclude a comprehensive analysis of T-cell immunity. To address this issue, we developed a combinatorial encoding strategy that allows the parallel detection of a multitude of different T-cell populations in a single sample. Detection of T cells from peripheral blood by combinatorial encoding is as efficient as detection with conventionally labeled multimers but results in a substantially increased sensitivity and, most notably, allows comprehensive screens to be performed. We obtained proof of principle for the feasibility of large-scale screening of human material by analysis of human leukocyte antigen A3-restricted T-cell responses to known and potential melanoma-associated antigens in peripheral blood from individuals with melanoma.

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