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    NKT cells are key mediators of antiviral and anticancer immunity. Experiments in mice have demonstrated that activation of NKT cells in vivo induces the expression of multiple effector molecules critical to successful immunity. Human clinical trials have shown similar responses, although in vivo activation of NKT cells in humans or primate models are far more limited in number and scope. Measuring ex vivo activation of NKT cells by the CD1d-restricted glycolipid ligand α-Galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) through cytokine expression profiles is a useful marker of NKT cell function, but for reasons that are unclear, this approach does not appear to work as well in humans and non-human primate macaque models in comparison to mice. We performed a series of experiments on human and macaque (Macaca nemestrina) fresh whole blood samples to define optimal conditions to detect NKT cell cytokine (TNF, IFNγ, IL-2) and degranulation marker (CD107a) expression by flow cytometry. We found that conditions previously described for mouse splenocyte NKT cell activation were suboptimal on human or macaque blood NKT cells. In contrast, a 6h incubation with brefeldin A added for the last 4h, in a 96-well plate based assay, and using an α-GalCer concentration of 1 μg/ml were optimal methods to stimulate NKT cells in fresh blood from both humans and macaques. Unexpectedly, we noted that blood NKT cells from macaques infected with SIV were more readily activated by α-GalCer than NKT cells from uninfected macaques, suggesting that SIV infection may have primed the NKT cells. In conclusion, we describe optimized methods for the ex vivo antigen-specific activation of human and macaque blood NKT cells. These assays should be useful in monitoring NKT cells in disease and in immunotherapy studies. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


    Caroline S Fernandez, Garth Cameron, Dale I Godfrey, Stephen J Kent. Ex-vivo α-galactosylceramide activation of NKT cells in humans and macaques. Journal of immunological methods. 2012 Aug 31;382(1-2):150-9

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    PMID: 22683545

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