Author(s): Hultin LE, Matud JL, Giorgi JV
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Abstract For some membrane-associated antigens, the number of molecules expressed per cell carries information about the cell's differentiation and activation state. Quantitating antigen expression by flow cytometry has immediate application in monitoring CD38 expression on CD8+ T cells in human immunodeficiency virus 1-associated disease, where elevated CD38 antigen expression is a marker of CD8+ T-cell activation and a poor prognostic indicator. Reproducible methods are needed in order to quantify such antigens. Here we describe a reproducible method for quantitative fluorescence cytometry (QFCM) that depends on the tightly regulated expression of CD4 antigen on human CD4+ T lymphocytes, which we estimated in a study of 57 normal donors to have an interperson coefficient of variation of 4.9\%. Using phycoerythrin (PE)-conjugated CD4 monoclonal antibody (mAb) with a nominal fluorochrome to protein ratio of 1:1 and a nominal published value of approximately 50,000 CD4 antibody molecules bound per CD4+ T lymphocyte, we estimated the number of PE molecules detected per relative fluorescence intensity (RFI) unit on our flow cytometer to be 41 (19, 20). This value is called the "RFI multiplier." To estimate the number of CD38 antibodies bound per CD8+ T cell (CD38-ABC) on patient samples, we multiply the measured CD38 RFI value of CD38 staining using a nominal 1:1 conjugate of CD38-PE by the "RFI multiplier." The measurements for CD4 and CD38 were stable for 2 years despite the use of different mAb lots and the potential for drift in instrumentation. We used this approach in a study of nine flow cytometers in which the interinstrument interlaboratory coefficients of variation for CD3-ABC ranged from 3.3\% to 5.8\% and those for CD38-ABC ranged from 9.8\% to 13.8\%. These data indicate that CD4 expression can serve as a biological calibrator to standardize fluorescence intensity measurements in longitudinal and multicenter studies.
This article was published in Cytometry
and referenced in Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research