Quantitative dynamic imaging of immune cell signalling using lentiviral gene transfer

Integr Biol (Camb). 2015 Jun;7(6):713-25. doi: 10.1039/c5ib00067j. Epub 2015 May 20.


Live-cell imaging of fluorescent fusion proteins has transformed our understanding of mammalian cell signalling and function. However, some cellular systems such as immune cells are unsuitable or refractory to many existing transgene delivery methods thus limiting systematic analyses. Here, a flexible lentiviral gene transfer platform for dynamic time-lapse imaging has been developed and validated with single-molecule spectroscopy, mathematical modelling and transcriptomics and used for analysis of a set of inflammation-related signalling networks. Time-lapse imaging of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), signal transducer and activator of transcription (STATs) and nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT) in mammalian immune cell lines provided evidence for heterogeneous temporal encoding of inflammatory signals. In particular, the absolute quantification of single-cell responses over time via fluorescent correlation spectroscopy (FCS) showed that NF-κB p65 activation in response to tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) was differentially encoded in variable amplitude of nuclear translocation between immune and non-immune cells. The absolute number of activated molecules was dictated in part by the cell size, suggesting a morphology-dependent regulatory mechanism. The developed platform will enable further absolute quantitative analyses of the dynamic interactions between signalling networks, in and between individual cells, allowing better integration with mathematical models of signalling networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology*
  • Immune System / metabolism*
  • Immune System Phenomena / genetics
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Lentivirus / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Models, Immunological
  • NFATC Transcription Factors / genetics
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • STAT Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods
  • Time-Lapse Imaging / methods*
  • Transcription Factor RelA / genetics


  • NFATC Transcription Factors
  • STAT Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factor RelA