Immunology and Infection
Published: June 23rd, 2013
We describe a live-cell imaging method that provides insight into protein dynamics during the T-cell activation process. We demonstrate the combined usage of the T-cell spreading assay, confocal microscopy and imaging analysis to yield quantitative results to follow signaling complex formation throughout T-cell activation.
Protection against infectious diseases is mediated by the immune system 1,2. T lymphocytes are the master coordinators of the immune system, regulating the activation and responses of multiple immune cells 3,4. T-cell activation is dependent on the recognition of specific antigens displayed by antigen presenting cells (APCs). The T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) is specific to each T-cell clone and determines antigen specificity 5. The binding of the TCR to the antigen induces the phosphorylation of components of the TCR complex. In order to promote T-cell activation, this signal must be transduced from the membrane to the cytoplasm and the nucleus, initiating various crucial responses such as recruitment of signaling proteins to the TCR;APC site (the immune synapse), their molecular activation, cytoskeletal rearrangement, elevation of intracellular calcium concentration, and changes in gene expression 6,7. The correct initiation and termination of activating signals is crucial for appropriate T-cell responses. The activity of signaling proteins is dependent on the formation and termination of protein-protein interactions, post translational modifications such as protein phosphorylation, formation of protein complexes, protein ubiquitylation and the recruitment of proteins to various cellular sites 8. Understanding the inner workings of the T-cell activation process is crucial for both immunological research and clinical applications.
Various assays have been developed in order to investigate protein-protein interactions; however, biochemical assays, such as the widely used co-immunoprecipitation method, do not allow protein location to be discerned, thus precluding the observation of valuable insights into the dynamics of cellular mechanisms. Additionally, these bulk assays usually combine proteins from many different cells that might be at different stages of the investigated cellular process. This can have a detrimental effect on temporal resolution. The use of real-time imaging of live cells allows both the spatial tracking of proteins and the ability to temporally distinguish between signaling events, thus shedding light on the dynamics of the process 9,10. We present a method of real-time imaging of signaling-complex formation during T-cell activation. Primary T-cells or T-cell lines, such as Jurkat, are transfected with plasmids encoding for proteins of interest fused to monomeric fluorescent proteins, preventing non-physiological oligomerization 11. Live T cells are dropped over a coverslip pre-coated with T-cell activating antibody 8,9, which binds to the CD3/TCR complex, inducing T-cell activation while overcoming the need for specific activating antigens. Activated cells are constantly imaged with the use of confocal microscopy. Imaging data are analyzed to yield quantitative results, such as the colocalization coefficient of the signaling proteins.
1. T-cell Transfection
We present an example of live T-cell imaging and analysis. Prior to the imaging experiment, SLP76 deficient T cells (J14) were analyzed with the use of FACS to determine the expression of the fluorescent proteins (Figure 1). T cells transfected with the tagged signaling proteins mCFP-Nck and SLP76-mYFP were deposited over activating slides and imaged during T-cell spreading (Figure 2). Collected images show the dynamics of protein localization throughout activation and spreading (
The regulation and function of multiple cellular processes depend on the formation and termination of protein-protein interactions. Microscopic imaging allows the real-time tracking of fluorescently tagged proteins in living cells. Colocalization of tagged proteins can suggest a direct or indirect interaction between the proteins, and can be used to reinforce findings obtained by biochemical methods, such as immunoprecipitation. Unlike biochemical methods, live-cell imaging allows these inter-protein interactions to be o.......
The authors thank Sophia Fried for technical assistance. MBS thanks the following agencies for their research support: The Israel Science Foundation for grants no.1659/08, 971/08, 1503/08 and 491/10, the Ministries of Health & Science for grants no. 3-4114 and 3-6540, the Israel Cancer Association through the Estate of the late Alexander Smidoda, and the Taubenblatt Family Foundation for the Bio-medicine excellence grant.....
|Amaxa human T Cell nucleofector kit
|Anti CD3 (UCHT1 clone)
|Falcon FACS Tubes
|German coverglass system 4 chamber slides
|Poly-L-lysine 0.1% (w/v) in H2O
|Accublock digital dry bath
|Centrifuge 5810 R
|LSM 510 Meta
|Heatable mounting frame - Heating Insert P S
|TempModule S (required for the heatable mounting frame)
|Fluorescence activated cell sorter
|Image analysis software
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