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Immunology

More tricks with tetramers: a practical guide to staining T cells with peptide-MHC multimers.


PMID 26076649

Abstract

Analysis of antigen-specific T-cell populations by flow cytometry with peptide-MHC (pMHC) multimers is now commonplace. These reagents allow the tracking and phenotyping of T cells during infection, autoimmunity and cancer, and can be particularly revealing when used for monitoring therapeutic interventions. In 2009, we reviewed a number of 'tricks' that could be used to improve this powerful technology. More recent advances have demonstrated the potential benefits of using higher order multimers and of 'boosting' staining by inclusion of an antibody against the pMHC multimer. These developments now allow staining of T cells where the interaction between the pMHC and the T-cell receptor is over 20-fold weaker (K(D) > 1 mm) than could previously be achieved. Such improvements are particularly relevant when using pMHC multimers to stain anti-cancer or autoimmune T-cell populations, which tend to bear lower affinity T-cell receptors. Here, we update our previous work to include discussion of newer tricks that can produce substantially brighter staining even when using log-fold lower concentrations of pMHC multimer. We further provide a practical guide to using pMHC multimers that includes a description of several common pitfalls and how to circumvent them.