Rapid flow cytometric measurement of cytokine-induced phosphorylation pathways [CIPP] in human peripheral blood leukocytes

Clin Immunol. 2006 Nov;121(2):215-26. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2006.06.013. Epub 2006 Sep 7.


Current strategies designed to assess cells in the peripheral blood are limited to evaluation of phenotype or delayed measurement [>6 h] of function, usually quantifying cytokine production, cytolytic activity, or response to antigens. We reasoned that measurable abnormalities in signaling pathways could reflect pathological environs that cells experience in the setting of inflammatory states/cancer and could be represented in the peripheral blood. Two major pathways regulating the immune response are the JAK/STAT and MAPK/ERK pathways. These pathways are initiated by ligand-receptor binding and are rapidly propagated by subsequent protein phosphorylation cascades. We evaluated the brief application of cytokines in vitro to interrogate the early phosphorylation events of these signaling pathways in normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Individual cytokine doses and time intervals of treatment were assessed to identify conditions useful in a clinical laboratory and as an initial goal to induce maximal phosphorylation. Surprisingly, all of the STAT proteins assessed and ERK1/2 are maximally phosphorylated within 15 min in human PBMC simply following addition of cytokines without preactivation of the cells. At 2 h, cells typically return to their basal phosphorylation states. For most of the cytokines tested, increased phosphorylation directly correlated with increased concentrations of the individual cytokines. These strategies will enable robust development of simple blood analyses to identify normal levels as well as impairments in STAT and MAPK/ERK signaling pathways associated with various human disease states including acute and chronic inflammatory conditions throughout clinical immunology.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / blood
  • Mitogens / administration & dosage
  • Phosphorylation
  • STAT Transcription Factors / blood*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Time Factors
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / blood


  • Cytokines
  • Mitogens
  • STAT Transcription Factors
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases