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J Immunol Methods. 2007 Aug 31;325(1-2):140-7. Epub 2007 Jul 16.

A novel five-colour flow cytometric assay to determine NK cell cytotoxicity against neuroblastoma and other adherent tumour cells.

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Paediatric Haematology and Oncology of Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60596 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


For the evaluation of novel therapies, and for initial in vitro testing of potential in vivo graft-versus-tumour-effects (GvT), cytotoxicity of effector cells against target tumour cells needs to be determined in a reliable fashion. Recently Zimmermann et al. [Zimmermann, S.Y., Esser, R., Rohrbach, E., Klingebiel, T., Koehl, U., 2005. A novel four-colour flow cytometric assay to determine natural killer cell or T-cell-mediated cellular cytotoxicity against leukaemia cells in peripheral or bone marrow specimens containing greater than 20% of normal cells. J. Immunol. Methods. 296(1-2), 63-76] introduced a single platform, no-wash flow cytometric assay to quantify natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity against leukaemia cells. Here we have optimised this method introducing a novel five-colour flow cytometric assay for the evaluation of NK cell activity against adherent tumour cells, in particular neuroblastoma cells (NB cells). Beside an enhanced cytotoxic activity corresponding to increasing effector/target (E:T) ratios, we could demonstrate an increasing cytotoxicity in a time-dependent manner over a time period of 8 h. The usefulness of this novel method was also confirmed with human tumour cells lines of various other origin including breast and ovarian carcinoma and Wilms tumour cells freshly isolated from a patient after surgery. In addition to flow cytometric analysis, we monitored NK-cell-mediated induction of target cell apoptosis via the caspase cascade in attacked NB cells by fluorescence microscopy after immunofluorescence staining of activated Caspase-3 (Casp-3) in combination with detection of CD45(+) and CD9(+) for discrimination between NK and NB cells. In summary, this novel flow cytometric cytotoxicity assay enables efficient quantification of the phenotype of both, effector and adherent target tumour cells, and therefore represents a useful tool for research on immunotherapies that rely on cytotoxic effector cells.

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