Methods to prime human CD4+ T cells in vitro would be of significant value for the pre-clinical evaluation of vaccine candidates and other immunotherapeutics. However, to date, there is no reliable method for the induction of primary human T cell responses in the laboratory. Here, we optimized a culture strategy incorporating highly purified lymphocytes and dendritic cells, in the absence of any exogenous growth factors, for the in vitro sensitization of naïve CD4+ T cells against a variety of protein antigens. This fully autologous approach, which was superior to the more traditional PBMC assay for supporting the induction of primary human T helper cell responses in culture, elicited effector cells capable of producing a variety of Th cytokines, including IFN?, TNFa, IL-2, IL-5, IL-17 and IL-21, and memory cells that could be restimulated multiple times with a specific antigen. Through simple modifications to this culture method, we evaluated the role of dendritic cell maturation state and regulatory T cells on the sensitization of naïve T helper cells, which highlights its utility for addressing basic questions of human immunobiology. Finally, using the formulated yellow fever vaccine, YF-VAX ®, we provide a proof-of-concept demonstration of the utility of the system for evaluating the T cell immunogenicity of vaccine candidates in a pre-clinical setting.
Moser, J.M., Sassano, E.R., Leistritz, D.C., Eatrides, J.M., Phogat, S., Koff, W. and Drake, D.R. Optimization of a dendritic cell-based assay for the in vitro priming of naïve human CD4+ T cells. Journal of Immunological Methods (2010) 353 (1-2) 8-19. [DOI: 10.1016/j.jim.2009.11.006]