Class II major histocompatibility complex tetramer staining: progress, problems, and prospects

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology; Department of Pathology

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Antibody Affinity; CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes; Flow Cytometry; Histocompatibility Antigens Class II; Humans; Staining and Labeling


Immunology and Infectious Disease


The use of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) tetramers in the detection and analysis of antigen-specific T cells has become more widespread since its introduction 11 years ago. Early challenges in the application of tetramer staining to CD4+ T cells centred around difficulties in the expression of various class II MHC allelic variants and the detection of low-frequency T cells in mixed populations. As many of the technical obstacles to class II MHC tetramer staining have been overcome, the focus has returned to uncertainties concerning how oligomer valency and T-cell receptor/MHC affinity affect tetramer binding. Such issues have become more important with an increase in the number of studies relying on direct ex vivo analysis of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells. In this review we discuss which problems in class II MHC tetramer staining have been solved to date, and which matters remain to be considered.

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Citation: Immunology. 2008 Mar;123(3):305-13. Link to article on publisher's site

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Co-author Sabrina Vollers is a student in the Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology program in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) at UMass Medical School.

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