Optimising the quantification of cytokines present at low concentrations in small human mucosal tissue samples using Luminex assays

J Immunol Methods. 2013 Aug 30;394(1-2):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2013.04.009. Epub 2013 May 1.


Sensitive measurement of multiple cytokine profiles from small mucosal tissue biopsies, for example human gastric biopsies obtained through an endoscope, is technically challenging. Multiplex methods such as Luminex assays offer an attractive solution but standard protocols are not available for tissue samples. We assessed the utility of three commercial Luminex kits (VersaMAP, Bio-Plex and MILLIPLEX) to measure interleukin-17A (IL-17) and interferon-gamma (IFNγ) concentrations in human gastric biopsies and we optimised preparation of mucosal samples for this application. First, we assessed the technical performance, limits of sensitivity and linear dynamic ranges for each kit. Next we spiked human gastric biopsies with recombinant IL-17 and IFNγ at a range of concentrations (1.5 to 1000 pg/mL) and assessed kit accuracy for spiked cytokine recovery and intra-assay precision. We also evaluated the impact of different tissue processing methods and extraction buffers on our results. Finally we assessed recovery of endogenous cytokines in unspiked samples. In terms of sensitivity, all of the kits performed well within the manufacturers' recommended standard curve ranges but the MILLIPLEX kit provided most consistent sensitivity for low cytokine concentrations. In the spiking experiments, the MILLIPLEX kit performed most consistently over the widest range of concentrations. For tissue processing, manual disruption provided significantly improved cytokine recovery over automated methods. Our selected kit and optimised protocol were further validated by measurement of relative cytokine levels in inflamed and uninflamed gastric mucosa using Luminex and real-time polymerase chain reaction. In summary, with proper optimisation Luminex kits (and for IL-17 and IFNγ the MILLIPLEX kit in particular) can be used for the sensitive detection of cytokines in mucosal biopsies. Our results should help other researchers seeking to quantify multiple low concentration cytokines in small tissue samples.

Keywords: Cytokine; Helicobacter pylori; Luminex; Mucosal tissue; Multiplex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cytokines / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Cytokines
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic