Cells2015, 4(1), 71-83; doi:10.3390/cells4010071 (registering DOI) - published 29 January 2015 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Comprehensive immune monitoring requires that frequencies of T cells, producing different cytokines, are measured to establish the magnitude of Th1, Th2, and Th17 components of cell-mediated immunity. Antigen titration provides additional information about the affinity of T cell response. In tumor immunity, it is also advisable to account for determinant spreading by testing multiple epitopes. Efforts for comprehensive immune monitoring would require substantial numbers of PBMC to run the above tests systematically, which in most test cases is limiting. Immune monitoring with ELISPOT assays have been performed, thus far, in a 96-well format. In this study we show that one can increase cell utilization by performing the assay in 384-well plates whose membrane surface area is one third that of 96-well plates. Systematic testing of PBMC for antigen-specific T cell response in the two formats demonstrated that the 384-well assay corresponds to a one-in-three miniaturization of the 96-well assay. The lowest number of cells that can be used in the 384-well format, while allowing for sufficient contact with APC, is 33,000 PBMC/well. Therefore, with one million PBMC typically obtained from 1 mL of blood, a 30 well T cell ELISPOT assay can be performed in a 384-well format.
Abstract: Each positive well in ELISPOT assays contains spots of variable sizes that can range from tens of micrometers up to a millimeter in diameter. Therefore, when it comes to counting these spots the decision on setting the lower and the upper spot size thresholds to discriminate between non-specific background noise, spots produced by individual T cells, and spots formed by T cell clusters is critical. If the spot sizes follow a known statistical distribution, precise predictions on minimal and maximal spot sizes, belonging to a given T cell population, can be made.We studied the size distributional properties of IFN-γ, IL-2, IL-4, IL-5 and IL-17 spots elicited in ELISPOT assays with PBMC from 172 healthy donors, upon stimulation with 32 individual viral peptides representing defined HLA Class I-restricted epitopes for CD8 cells, and with protein antigens of CMV and EBV activating CD4 cells. A total of 334 CD8 and 80 CD4 positive T cell responses were analyzed. In 99.7% of the test cases, spot size distributions followed Log Normal function. These data formally demonstrate that it is possible to establish objective, statistically validated parameters for counting T cell ELISPOTs.
Abstract: As soon as Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMC) are isolated from whole blood, some cells begin dying. The rate of apoptotic cell death is increased when PBMC are shipped, cryopreserved, or stored under suboptimal conditions. Apoptotic cells secrete cytokines that suppress inflammation while promoting phagocytosis. Increased numbers of apoptotic cells in PBMC may modulate T cell functions in antigen-triggered T cell assays. We assessed the effect of apoptotic bystander cells on a T cell ELISPOT assay by selectively inducing B cell apoptosis using α-CD20 mAbs. The presence of large numbers of apoptotic B cells did not affect T cell functionality. In contrast, when PBMC were stored under unfavorable conditions, leading to damage and apoptosis in the T cells as well as bystander cells, T cell functionality was greatly impaired. We observed that measuring the number of apoptotic cells before plating the PBMC into an ELISPOT assay did not reflect the extent of PBMC injury, but measuring apoptotic cell frequencies at the end of the assay did. Our data suggest that measuring the numbers of apoptotic cells prior to and post T cell assays may provide more stringent PBMC quality acceptance criteria than measurements done only prior to the start of the assay.
Abstract: The primary goal of immune monitoring with ELISPOT is to measure the number of T cells, specific for any antigen, accurately and reproducibly between different laboratories. In ELISPOT assays, antigen-specific T cells secrete cytokines, forming spots of different sizes on a membrane with variable background intensities. Due to the subjective nature of judging maximal and minimal spot sizes, different investigators come up with different numbers. This study aims to determine whether statistics-based, automated size-gating can harmonize the number of spot counts calculated between different laboratories. We plated PBMC at four different concentrations, 24 replicates each, in an IFN-γ ELISPOT assay with HCMV pp65 antigen. The ELISPOT plate, and an image file of the plate was counted in nine different laboratories using ImmunoSpot® Analyzers by (A) Basic Count™ relying on subjective counting parameters set by the respective investigators and (B) SmartCount™, an automated counting protocol by the ImmunoSpot® Software that uses statistics-based spot size auto-gating with spot intensity auto-thresholding. The average coefficient of variation (CV) for the mean values between independent laboratories was 26.7% when counting with Basic Count™, and 6.7% when counting with SmartCount™. Our data indicates that SmartCount™ allows harmonization of counting ELISPOT results between different laboratories and investigators.
Abstract: Immune monitoring of functional responses is a fundamental parameter to establish correlates of protection in clinical trials evaluating vaccines and therapies to boost antigen-specific responses. The IFNg ELISPOT assay is a well-standardized and validated method for the determination of functional IFNg-producing T-cells in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC); however, its performance greatly depends on the quality and integrity of the cryopreserved PBMC. Here, we investigate the effect of overnight (ON) resting of the PBMC on the detection of CD8-restricted peptide-specific responses by IFNg ELISPOT. The study used PBMC from healthy donors to evaluate the CD8 T-cell response to five pooled or individual HLA-A2 viral peptides. The results were analyzed using a modification of the existing distribution free resampling (DFR) recommended for the analysis of ELISPOT data to ensure the most rigorous possible standard of significance. The results of the study demonstrate that ON resting of PBMC samples prior to IFNg ELISPOT increases both the magnitude and the statistical significance of the responses. In addition, a comparison of the results with a 13-day preculture of PBMC with the peptides before testing demonstrates that ON resting is sufficient for the efficient evaluation of immune functioning.