Major Histocompatibility Complex Class II Dextramers: New Tools for the Detection of antigen-Specific, CD4 T Cells in Basic and Clinical Research

Scand J Immunol. 2015 Nov;82(5):399-408. doi: 10.1111/sji.12344.


The advent of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) tetramer technology has been a major contribution to T cell immunology, because tetramer reagents permit detection of antigen-specific T cells at the single-cell level in heterogeneous populations by flow cytometry. However, unlike MHC class I tetramers, the utility of MHC class II tetramers has been less frequently reported. MHC class II tetramers can be used successfully to enumerate the frequencies of antigen-specific CD4 T cells in cells activated in vitro, but their use for ex vivo analyses continues to be a problem, due in part to their activation dependency for binding with T cells. To circumvent this problem, we recently reported the creation of a new generation of reagents called MHC class II dextramers, which were found to be superior to their counterparts. In this review, we discuss the utility of class II dextramers vis-a-vis tetramers, with respect to their specificity and sensitivity, including potential applications and limitations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Antigens / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Separation
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Research
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • T-Cell Antigen Receptor Specificity


  • Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II