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Assessment of cell-mediated toxicity has traditionally been achieved by measuring the specific activity of enriched effector cell populations against antigen-loaded target cells labeled with radioactive isotopes in vitro. Fluorometric techniques are viewed as a promising alternative to the use of radioactive isotopes for these analyses. Direct assessment of cytotoxicity in vivo can be achieved by monitoring survival of injected fluorescent targets relative to a differentially labeled internal control population without specific antigen. We have developed this approach, incorporating the use of multiple target cell populations labeled with different dyes so that cytotoxicity can be assessed against titrated doses of a given antigen, or against a range of different antigens, simultaneously. We show that this assay, referred to as the VITAL assay, can be used to assess cytotoxic activity of CTL and iNKT cells in vivo and in vitro. CTL responses measured in vivo could be correlated with antigen doses used in immunization strategies, and also with the size of specific CTL populations enumerated in the blood with fluorescent MHC/peptide tetramers. The VITAL assay is, therefore, a sensitive technique allowing analysis of complex multi-epitope responses.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol Methods

Publication Date





25 - 40


Animals, Antigens, Cell Line, Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic, Flow Cytometry, Fluorescent Dyes, Fluorometry, Humans, Immunization, In Vitro Techniques, Jurkat Cells, Killer Cells, Natural, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Mice, Transgenic, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic