Flow Cytometric Characterization of Human Antigen-Reactive T-Helper Cells.


Carina Saggau, Alexander Scheffold, Petra Bacher

Year of publication



Methods Mol. Biol.







Impact factor



The detection and functional characterization of antigen-reactive T helper (Th) cells has been challenging due to their low frequency and functional heterogeneity. Antigen-reactive T cell enrichment (ARTE) allows the in-depth characterization of antigen-specific Th lymphocytes as a prerequisite for better understanding the role of adaptive immune responses in health and disease. ARTE is based on detection of the activation markers CD154 (CD40L) (expressed on all conventional Th cell subsets, Tcons) and CD137 (4-1BB) (expressed on regulatory T cells, Tregs), which are upregulated on the surface of CD4+ T cells upon short-term (7 h) in vitro stimulation with antigens in the presence of antigen-presenting cells (APCs). To substantially increase the sensitivity for the detection of antigen-specific Th cells, ARTE combines magnetic pre-enrichment of rare antigen-reactive T cells with multiparameter flow cytometry. Using CD154 and CD137 in combination allows the parallel detection of reactive Tcons and Tregs, after stimulation with the antigen. Thus, the ARTE technology now enables to characterize antigen-specific T cells with increased sensitivity of detection allowing even the investigation of antigen-specific Th cells in the naive T cell repertoire and regardless of prior knowledge of MHC alleles or antigenic epitopes.