The assessment of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells through the combination of MHC class I tetramer and intracellular staining

J Immunol Methods. 2002 Oct 1;268(1):9-19. doi: 10.1016/s0022-1759(02)00195-3.


Peptide-bound histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I tetramers enable a precise identification of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells using flow cytometry. The combination of this technology with intracellular staining techniques opens up significantly better ways of studying these cells than previously possible, allowing immunologists to look at their life cycle (activation and proliferation), manner of death (aging and apoptosis) and effector function (cytotoxic potential and cytokine production). In this review, we hope to provide an overview of these possibilities, as well as making specific suggestions about the use of intracellular staining techniques in the study of antigen-specific T cells. Understanding how antigen-specific cells develop and function in different circumstances and pathologies will be the key to unravelling the secrets of our cellular immune system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Division
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / chemistry*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Cytokines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I