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Open Access Methodology

Evaluating the cytotoxicity of innate immune effector cells using the GrB ELISPOT assay

Kimberly A Shafer-Weaver1, Thomas Sayers3, Douglas B Kuhns4, Susan L Strobl1, Mark W Burkett1, Michael Baseler2 and Anatoli Malyguine1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Cell-Mediated Immunity, SAIC-Frederick, Inc., National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, MD USA

2 Clinical Services Program, SAIC-Frederick, Inc., National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, MD USA

3 Laboratory of Experimental Immunology, Intramural Research Support Program, SAIC-Frederick, Inc., National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, MD USA

4 Neutrophil Monitoring Laboratory, SAIC-Frederick, Inc., National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, MD USA

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2004, 2:31  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-2-31

Published: 20 September 2004

Abstract

Background

This study assessed the Granzyme B (GrB) ELISPOT as a viable alternative to the 51Cr-release assay for measuring cytotoxic activity of innate immune effector cells. We strategically selected the GrB ELISPOT assay because GrB is a hallmark effector molecule of cell-mediated destruction of target cells.

Methods

We optimized the GrB ELISPOT assay using the human-derived TALL-104 cytotoxic cell line as effectors against K562 target cells. Titration studies were performed to assess whether the ELISPOT assay could accurately enumerate the number of GrB-secreting effector cells. TALL-104 were treated with various secretion inhibitors and utilized in the GrB ELISPOT to determine if GrB measured in the ELISPOT was due to degranulation of effector cells. Additionally, CD107a expression on effector cells after effector-target interaction was utilized to further confirm the mechanism of GrB release by TALL-104 and lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells. Direct comparisons between the GrB ELISPOT, the IFN-γ ELISPOT and the standard 51Cr-release assays were made using human LAK cells.

Results

Titration studies demonstrated a strong correlation between the number of TALL-104 and LAK effector cells and the number of GrB spots per well. GrB secretion was detectable within 10 min of effector-target contact with optimal secretion observed at 3–4 h; in contrast, optimal IFN-γ secretion was not observed until 24 h. The protein secretion inhibitor, brefeldin A, did not inhibit the release of GrB but did abrogate IFN-γ production by TALL-104 cells. GrB secretion was abrogated by BAPTA-AM (1,2-bis-(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N', N'-tetraacetic acid tetra(acetoxymethyl) ester), which sequesters intracellular Ca2+, thereby preventing degranulation. The number of effector cells expressing the degranulation associated glycoprotein CD107a increased after interaction with target cells and correlated with the stimulated release of GrB measured in the ELISPOT assay.

Conclusions

Because of its high sensitivity and ability to estimate cytotoxic effector cell frequency, the GrB ELISPOT assay is a viable alternative to the 51Cr-release assay to measure MHC non-restricted cytotoxic activity of innate immune cells. Compared to the IFN-γ ELISPOT assay, the GrB ELISPOT may be a more direct measure of cytotoxic cell activity. Because GrB is one of the primary effector molecules in natural killer (NK) cell-mediated killing, detection and enumeration of GrB secreting effector cells can provide valuable insight with regards to innate immunological responses.