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Cytometry. 2000 May 1;40(1):60-8.

Optimization of whole blood antigen-specific cytokine assays for CD4(+) T cells.

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Biological Research and Development, BD Biosciences, Immunocytometry Systems, San Jose, CA 95131, USA.



The analysis of cytokine production is a valuable component of studies of immune response to stimulation such as pathogens, vaccines, and other immunological challenges. One highly sensitive method of cytokine evaluation involves three-color flow cytometric analysis of cytokine production in individual CD4(+) T cells.


We present four methods to enhance the acquisition and analysis of cells secreting the cytokines interferon gamma (IFNgamma), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha), interleukin-2 (IL-2), and interleukin-4 (IL-4). Using cytomegalovirus (CMV) as the antigenic model, titration and kinetic experiments were carried out in whole blood from CMV-seropositive donors.


CMV is most effective as a stimulating antigen when used at a dose of 5 microg/ml and for a period of at least 6 h, the first 2 h in the absence of 10 microg/ml Brefeldin A. This period of incubation can be made more convenient by the use of a "timed cooling" device, whereby the samples are automatically cooled and held at 4 degrees C at the end of incubation. Such timed cooling does not affect backgrounds or the proportion of responding cells. For certain samples, a high background can be reduced by adding fourth-color reagents. They identify and allow for elimination of monocytes and activated platelets, which contribute to false positive staining.


These optimizations make the assay both convenient for use in whole blood samples and highly reproducible (intra-assay variability is less than 10%; interassay variability is less than 25%).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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