Detection of antigen-specific T cell cytokine expression in whole blood by flow cytometry

J Immunol Methods. 1998 Mar 1;212(1):89-98. doi: 10.1016/s0022-1759(98)00004-0.


We have recently described a highly sensitive flow cytometric technique, based on the ability to detect single cell expression of cytokines, to simultaneously quantitate and phenotypically characterize antigen-specific memory/effector T cells in PBMC cultures. In this report, we describe a simplified procedural modification which enables the rapid detection of low frequency memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells expressing cytokines in response to soluble antigen in whole blood. When compared with T cell responses in PBMC cultures, whole blood cultures demonstrated similar but slightly higher percentages of T cells responsive to specific antigen. In addition, T cell responses to cytomegalovirus in whole blood were observed only in sensitized (seropositive) individuals, and CD4+ T cell responses could be blocked by anti-class II MHC antibodies. This procedure may provide a means to examine direct effects of pharmacological drug concentrations on T cell immunity in clinical samples.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Cytokines