Sensitivity and specificity of tritiated thymidine incorporation and ELISPOT assays in identifying antigen specific T cell immune responses

BMC Immunol. 2007 Sep 12:8:21. doi: 10.1186/1471-2172-8-21.

Abstract

Background: Standardization of cell-based immunologic monitoring is becoming increasingly important as methods for measuring cellular immunity become more complex. We assessed the ability of two commonly used cell-based assays, tritiated thymidine incorporation (proliferation) and IFN-gamma ELISPOT, to predict T cell responses to HER-2/neu, tetanus toxoid (tt), and cytomegalovirus (CMV) antigens. These antigens were determined to be low (HER-2/neu), moderate (tt), and robustly (CMV) immunogenic proteins. Samples from 27 Stage II, III, and IV HER-2/neu positive breast cancer patients, vaccinated against the HER-2/neu protein and tt, were analyzed by tritiated thymidine incorporation and IFN-gamma ELISPOT for T cell response.

Results: Linear regression analysis indicates that both stimulation index (SI) (p = 0.011) and IFN-gamma secreting precursor frequency (p < 0.001) are significant indicators of antigen specific immunity. ROC curves plotted to assess the performance of tritiated thymidine incorporation and the ELISPOT assay indicate that SI is a significant indicator of low T cell response to the HER-2/neu vaccine (p = 0.05), and of moderate and robust responses to tt (p = 0.01) and CMV (p = 0.016), respectively. IFN-gamma precursor frequency is a significant indicator of a robust T cell response to CMV (p = 0.03), but not of moderate tt (p = 0.09), or low HER-2/neu (p = 0.09) T cell responses.

Conclusion: These data underscore the importance of taking into consideration the performance characteristics of assays used to measure T cell immunity. This consideration is particularly necessary when determining which method to utilize for assessing responses to immunotherapeutic manipulations in cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibody Formation / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • DNA, Neoplasm / biosynthesis*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods*
  • Epitopes
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology*
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / microbiology*
  • Thymidine / metabolism*
  • Tritium / metabolism*

Substances

  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Epitopes
  • Tritium
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Thymidine