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Clin Immunol. 2004 Mar;110(3):232-42.

MHC Class II tetramers and the pursuit of antigen-specific T cells: define, deviate, delete.

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Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, Seattle, WA 98101, USA.


Selective expansion and activation of a very small number of antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells is a remarkable and essential property of the adaptive immune response. Antigen-specific T cells were until recently identified only indirectly by functional assays, such as antigen-induced cytokine secretion and proliferation. The advent of MHC Class II tetramers has added a pivotal tool to our research armamentarium, allowing the definition of allo- and autoimmune responses in deeper detail. Rare antigen-specific CD4(+) cells can now be selectively identified, isolated and characterized. The same tetramer reagents also provide a new mean of stimulating T cells, more closely reproducing the MHC-peptide/TCR interaction. This property allows the use of tetramers to direct T cells toward the more desirable outcome, that is, activation (in malignancies and infectious diseases) or Th2/T regulatory cell deviation, anergy and deletion (in autoimmune diseases). These experimental approaches hold promise for diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic applications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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