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J Vis Exp. 2009 Mar 6;(25). pii: 1167. doi: 10.3791/1167.

Visualizing antigen specific CD4+ T cells using MHC class II tetramers.

Author information

1
Tetramer Core Laboratory, Benaroya Research Institute. ejames@benaroyaresearch.org

Abstract

Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II tetramers allow the direct visualization of antigen specific CD4+ T cells by flow cytometry. This method relies on the highly specific interaction between peptide loaded MHC and the corresponding T-cell receptor. While the affinity of a single MHC/peptide molecule is low, cross-linking MHC/peptide complexes with streptavidin increases the avidity of the interaction, enabling their use as staining reagents. Because of the relatively low frequencies of CD4+ T cells (approximately 1 in 300,000 for a single specificity) this assay utilizes an in vitro amplification step to increase its threshold of detection. Mononuclear cells are purified from peripheral blood by Ficoll underlay. CD4+ cells are then separated by negative selection using biotinylated antibody cocktail and anti-biotin labeled magnetic beads. Using adherent cells from the CD4- cell fraction as antigen presenting cells, CD4+ T cells are expanded in media by adding an antigenic peptide and IL-2. The expanded cells are stained with the corresponding class II tetramer by incubating at 37 C for one hour and subsequently stained using surface antibodies such as anti-CD4, anti-CD3, and anti-CD25. After labeling, the cells can be directly analyzed by flow cytometry. The tetramer positive cells typically form a distinct population among the expanded CD4+ cells. Tetramer positive cells are usually CD25+ and often CD4 high. Because the level of background tetramer staining can vary, positive staining results should always be compared to the staining of the same cells with an irrelevant tetramer. Multiple variations of this basic assay are possible. Tetramer positive cells may be sorted for further phenotypic analysis, inclusion in ELISPOT or proliferation assays, or other secondary assays. Several groups have also demonstrated co-staining using tetramers and either anti-cytokine or anti-FoxP3 antibodies.

PMID:
19270641
PMCID:
PMC2789100
DOI:
10.3791/1167
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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