The effect of apoptotic cells on virus-specific immune responses detected using IFN-gamma ELISPOT

J Immunol Methods. 2010 May 31;357(1-2):51-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2010.03.001. Epub 2010 Mar 6.


Interferon (IFN)-gamma ELISPOT can be used to monitor the magnitude of virus-specific cellular immune responses in vaccine trials. Often, IFN-gamma ELISPOT is performed with cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). However, it has not been well defined yet to what extent diminished cell viability of PBMC following cryopreservation affects IFN-gamma responses in ELISPOT. Therefore, we assessed the influence of apoptotic cells on the number of spot-forming cells (SFC) in IFN-gamma ELISPOT using a gradient of UV-irradiated apoptotic PBMC and viral antigens derived from varicella zoster virus (VZV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV). No SFC were observed when UV-irradiated apoptotic cells were stimulated with VZV or CMV antigens. Moreover, presence of apoptotic cells among viable T cells hampered the detection of SFC following stimulation with VZV or CMV cell lysates, but not with CMVpp65 peptide pool. Statistical analysis showed that mainly late apoptotic cells, staining both Annexin V and 7-amino-actinomycin D (7-AAD), were associated with a decreased number of SFC. In conclusion, it is recommended to use highly viable thawed PBMC for the detection of virus-specific cellular immune responses by IFN-gamma ELISPOT, since the detection of CMV- and VZV-specific T cell responses stimulated by cell lysates was significantly impeded by the presence of apoptotic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology*
  • Apoptosis / immunology*
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • Cryopreservation
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology*
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosorbent Techniques
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology*
  • Male
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Interferon-gamma