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J Immunol Methods. 1999 Apr 22;224(1-2):1-9.

A novel method for measuring CTL and NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity using annexin V and two-color flow cytometry.

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Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA 94305-5407, USA.


An assay based on two-color flow cytometry has been developed to measure CTL and NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity. After effector/target cells are incubated together, CTL or NK populations are stained with an effector cell specific PE-conjugated mAb. Subsequently, annexin V-FITC binds to cells expressing phosphatidylserine (an early marker of apoptosis) on the cell surface. Target cells are gated upon as PE-negative and quantified with respect to their annexin V positivity. The shift from annexin Vneg to annexin Vhi is a discrete event such that all target cells fall within discernible populations with respect to annexin V. There is a strong correlation between cytotoxicity measured with our assay and a standard 51Cr release assay (r2 = 0.989). The PE/annexin V assay shows increased sensitivity at early timepoints after target/effector cell mixing. In addition, this method allows for analysis of target cells at the single cell level. Therefore, we have described a promising new technique to measure in vitro cell-mediated cytotoxicity. It avoids the potential difficulties of working with radioactive isotopes, and offers increased sensitivity and versatility.

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