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Procedure for preparing peptide-major histocompatibility complex tetramers for direct quantification of antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes


  AIM: To establish a simplified method for generating peptide-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I tetramers. METHODS: cDNAs encoding the extracellular domain of human lymphocyte antigen (HLA)-A*0201 heavy chain (A2) and β2-microglobulin (β2m) from total RNA extracted from leukocytes of HLA-A2+ donors were doned into separate expression vectors by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. The recombinant A2 and β2m proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli strain BL21(DE3) and recovered from the inclusion body fraction. Soluble A2 proteins loaded with specific antigen peptides were refolded by dilution from the heavy chain in the presence of light chain β2m and HLA-A2-restricted peptide antigens. The refolded A2 monomers were biotinylatecl with a commercial biotinylation enzyme (BirA) and purified by low pressure anion exchange chromatography on a Q-Sepharose (fast flow) column. The tetramers were then formed by mixing A2 monomers with streptavidin-PE in a molar ratio of 4:1. Flow cytometry was used to confirm the expected tetramer staining of CD8+ T cells. RESULTS: Recombinant genes for HLA-A*0201 heavy chain (A2) fused to a BirA substrate peptide (A2-BSP) and mature β2m from HLA-A2+ donor leukocytes were successfully doned and highly expressed in E coli. Two soluble monomeric A2-peptide complexes were reconstituted from A2-BSP in the presence of β2m and peptides loaded with either human cytomegalovirus pp65495-503 peptide (NLVPMVATV, NLV; designated as A2-NLV) or influenza virus matrix protein Mp58-66 peptide (GILGFVFTL, GIL; designated as A2-GIL). Refolded A2-NLV or A2-GIL monomers were biotinylated and highly purified by single step anton exchange column chromatography. The tetramers were then formed by mixing the biotinylated A2-NLV or A2-GIL monomers with streptavidin-PE, leading to more than 80% multiplication as revealed by SDS-PAGE under non-reducing, unboiled conditions. Flow cytometry revealed that these tetramers could specifically bind to CD8+ T cells from a HLA-A2+ donor, but failed to bind to those from a HLA-A2donor. CONCLUSION: The procedure is simple and efficient for generating peptide-MHC tetramers.……