Circulating T cell-monocyte complexes are markers of immune perturbations

Elife. 2019 Jun 25;8:e46045. doi: 10.7554/eLife.46045.


Our results highlight for the first time that a significant proportion of cell doublets in flow cytometry, previously believed to be the result of technical artifacts and thus ignored in data acquisition and analysis, are the result of biological interaction between immune cells. In particular, we show that cell:cell doublets pairing a T cell and a monocyte can be directly isolated from human blood, and high resolution microscopy shows polarized distribution of LFA1/ICAM1 in many doublets, suggesting in vivo formation. Intriguingly, T cell-monocyte complex frequency and phenotype fluctuate with the onset of immune perturbations such as infection or immunization, reflecting expected polarization of immune responses. Overall these data suggest that cell doublets reflecting T cell-monocyte in vivo immune interactions can be detected in human blood and that the common approach in flow cytometry to avoid studying cell:cell complexes should be re-visited.

Keywords: cell interactions; flow cytometry; human; immune biomarker; immunology; infectious diseases; inflammation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blood Cells / cytology*
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Microscopy
  • Monocytes / cytology*
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE84445
  • GEO/GSE99373