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Cells 2015, 4(1), 84-95; doi:10.3390/cells4010084

Comparative Multi-Donor Study of IFNγ Secretion and Expression by Human PBMCs Using ELISPOT Side-by-Side with ELISA and Flow Cytometry Assays

R&D Systems, Inc., 614 McKinely Place, Minneapolis, MN 55413, USA
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Academic Editor: Ritva Tikkanen
Received: 31 October 2014 / Accepted: 30 January 2015 / Published: 11 February 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue ELISPOT Research)
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Abstract

ELISPOT, ELISA and flow cytometry techniques are often used to study the function of immune system cells. It is tempting to speculate that these assays can be used interchangeably, providing similar information about the cytokine secreting activity of cells: the higher the number of cytokine-positive cells measured by flow cytometry, the higher the number of cytokine-secreting cells expected to be detected by ELISPOT and the larger the amount of secreted cytokine expected to be measured by ELISA. We have analyzed the expression level and secretion capacity of IFNγ from peripheral blood mononuclear cells isolated from five healthy donors and stimulated by calcium ionomycin mixed with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate in a non-specific manner in side-by-side testing using ELISPOT, ELISA and flow cytometry assays. In our study, we observed a general correlation in donors’ ranking between ELISPOT and flow cytometry; ELISA values did not correlate with either ELISPOT or flow cytometry. However, a detailed donor-to-donor comparison between ELISPOT and flow cytometry revealed significant discrepancies: donors who have similar numbers of IFNγ-positive cells measured by flow cytometry show 2–3-fold differences in the number of spot-forming cells (SFCs) measured by ELISPOT; and donors who have the same number of SFCs measured by ELISPOT show 30% differences in the number of IFNγ-positive cells measured by flow cytometry. Significant discrepancies between donors were also found when comparing ELISA and ELISPOT techniques: donors who secreted the same amount of IFNγ measured by ELISA show six-fold differences in the number of SFCs measured by ELISPOT; and donors who have 5–7-times less secreted IFNγ measured by ELISA show a two-fold increase in the number of SFCs measured by ELISPOT compared to donors who show a more profound secretion of IFNγ measured by ELISA. The results of our study suggest that there can be a lack of correlation between IFNγ values measured by ELISPOT, ELISA and flow cytometry. The higher number of cytokine-positive cells determined by flow cytometry is not necessarily indicative of a higher number of cytokine-secreting cells when they are analyzed by either ELISPOT or ELISA. Our ELISPOT vs. ELISA comparison demonstrates that the higher number of SFCs observed in ELISPOT does not guarantee that these cells secrete larger amounts of cytokines compared to donors with lower SFC numbers. In addition, our data indicate that ELISPOT, ELISA and flow cytometry should be performed as complementary, rather than stand-alone assays: running these assays in parallel on samples from the same donors may help to better understand the mechanisms underlying the physiology of cytokine-secreting cells. View Full-Text
Keywords: human IFNγ; ELISPOT; ELISA; flow cytometry; human peripheral blood mononuclear cells; PBMCs; side-by-side comparison; multi-donor study human IFNγ; ELISPOT; ELISA; flow cytometry; human peripheral blood mononuclear cells; PBMCs; side-by-side comparison; multi-donor study
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Hagen, J.; Zimmerman, R.; Goetz, C.; Bonnevier, J.; Houchins, J.P.; Reagan, K.; Kalyuzhny, A.E. Comparative Multi-Donor Study of IFNγ Secretion and Expression by Human PBMCs Using ELISPOT Side-by-Side with ELISA and Flow Cytometry Assays. Cells 2015, 4, 84-95.

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