High-Efficiency Generation of Antigen-Specific Primary Mouse Cytotoxic T Cells for Functional Testing in an Autoimmune Diabetes Model

J Vis Exp. 2019 Aug 16;(150). doi: 10.3791/59985.


Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is characterized by islet-specific autoimmunity leading to beta cell destruction and absolute loss of insulin production. In the spontaneous non-obese diabetes (NOD) mouse model, insulin is the primary target, and genetic manipulation of these animals to remove a single key insulin epitope prevents disease. Thus, selective elimination of professional antigen presenting cells (APCs) bearing this pathogenic epitope is an approach to inhibit the unwanted insulin-specific autoimmune responses, and likely has greater translational potential. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) can redirect T cells to selectively target disease-causing antigens. This technique is fundamental to recent attempts to use cellular engineering for adoptive cell therapy to treat multiple cancers. In this protocol, we describe an optimized T-cell retrovirus (RV) transduction and in vitro expansion protocol that generates high numbers of functional antigen-specific CD8 CAR-T cells starting from a low number of naive cells. Previously multiple CAR-T cell protocols have been described, but typically with relatively low transduction efficiency and cell viability following transduction. In contrast, our protocol provides up to 90% transduction efficiency, and the cells generated can survive more than two weeks in vivo and significantly delay disease onset following a single infusion. We provide a detailed description of the cell maintenance and transduction protocol, so that the critical steps can be easily followed. The whole procedure from primary cell isolation to CAR expression can be performed within 14 days. The general method may be applied to any mouse disease model in which the target is known. Similarly, the specific application (targeting a pathogenic peptide/MHC class II complex) is applicable to any other autoimmune disease model for which a key complex has been identified.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Antigens / physiology*
  • Autoimmunity
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Epitopes
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / physiology*


  • Antigens
  • Epitopes
  • Insulin