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J Immunol Methods. 2013 Aug 30;394(1-2):40-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2013.05.001. Epub 2013 May 13.

A high throughput method for enrichment of natural killer cells and lymphocytes and assessment of in vitro cytotoxicity.

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Division of Research and Development and Surgical Service, Baltimore Veterans Administration Medical Center, 10 N. Greene Street, 5C Surgical Services Area, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


In vitro assessment of lymphocyte and natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity typically employs density gradient centrifugation and magnetic cell separation to isolate effector cells, and chromium release to assess cytotoxicity. In order to improve the rapidity and scalability of in vitro cytotoxicity assessment, we evaluated the efficacy of a protocol utilizing tetrameric antibody complexes and SepMateā„¢ isolation tubes to negatively select NK cells (TACs/Sep), and calcein-AM release to measure cytotoxicity. We compared the efficiency and accuracy of this protocol to a conventional approach employing density gradient centrifugation and magnetically labeled antibodies (DG/MACS) to isolate NK cells and chromium release to measure cytotoxicity. The TACs/Sep method significantly decreased the time required for NK cell isolation (1h vs. 4h), but resulted in higher red blood cell contamination. NK cell activation marker expression (including CD94, NKG2D, NKp30, NKp46, DNAM-1, 2B4, KIR2DL1/S1, KIR2DL2/L3, intracellular granzyme B, and perforin) was similar when comparing NK cells isolated by the TACs/Sep or DG/MACS methods, but the TACs/Sep method induced higher expression of CD16. In vitro cytotoxicity against HT29 colon cancer and K562 leukemia cells was not affected by the isolation method. Lastly, by combining the TACs/Sep NK cell isolation method with calcein-acetoxymethyl diacetylester (calcein-AM) release, the time required to assess in vitro cytotoxicity was reduced by 33% (4h) compared to protocols employing DG/MACS and chromium release. Altogether, these results provide the foundation for the development of a rapid, high throughput functional assay, and make it practical for the multiplexing of downstream applications, such as flow cytometric analysis and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs).


ADCC; Calcein; Chromium release; Magnetic cell separation; Rapid high-throughput; Tetrameric antibody complexes

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