Why MHC Tetramers?
T cells play essential effectors and regulatory roles in adaptive immune responses to tumors, viruses, bacteria, parasites, transplanted tissues, allergens and even to self antigens. T cells use the T cell antigen-receptor (TCR) to recognize their antigens, which are often in the form of peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex molecules (MHC), also called HLA (human leukocyte antigens) in humans.
Desire to identify antigen-specific T cells through the MHC/peptide complex was always there. However, the inherent affinity between MHC and TCR was demonstrably weak and with short half-life, providing an explanation for the failure of many efforts to obtain staining of T cells with monomeric MHC. In 1994-1995, this problem was solved by the development of a revolutionized technique called "MHC Tetramer" which binds strongly to antigen-specific T cells due to an increased avidity effect.
Nowadays the MHC Tetramer technique has become a "gold standard" for the quantification of T cell immune responses. The acceptance of the method is indicated by the number of citations to key papers describing the method: the original Science paper describing the method has been cited more than 500 times.
By offering exquisite antigen specificity and sensitivity, it is suitable for basic and clinical study in a number of applications including cancer prevention, cancer therapy, cell and gene therapy, immunotherapy, drug / vaccine development, and non-cancer related immunology research.
Proven through extensive research, MHC Tetramer technology has been used to accurately and efficiently monitor T cell responses in the following conditions:
- Viruses (human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, Epstein Barr virus-mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus, human papilloma virus, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, influenza, measles and viruses for rhesus macaque and murine)
- Parasitic infection (malaria)
- Cancer (breast, prostate, melanoma, colon, lung, cervical)
- Autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis)
The major benefits of using this method have been summarized as the following:
- Rapid quantitative results
- No radioisotopes or in vitro stimulation and expansion
- Exquisite antigen specificity with high sensitivity
- Maintenance of cell integrity for further analysis