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A correlative and quantitative imaging approach enabling characterization of primary cell-cell communication: Case of human CD4+ T cell-macrophage immunological synapses

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JournalScientific Reports
DateAccepted/In press - 8 May 2018
DatePublished (current) - 22 May 2018
Number of pages17
Original languageEnglish


Cell-to-cell communication engages signaling and spatiotemporal reorganization events driven by highly context-dependent and dynamic intercellular interactions, which are difficult to capture within heterogeneous primary cell cultures. Here, we present a straightforward correlative imaging approach utilizing commonly available instrumentation to sample large numbers of cell-cell interaction events, allowing qualitative and quantitative characterization of rare functioning cell-conjugates based on calcium signals. We applied this approach to examine a previously uncharacterized immunological synapse, investigating autologous human blood CD4+ T cells and monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) forming functional conjugates in vitro. Populations of signaling conjugates were visualized, tracked and analyzed by combining live imaging, calcium recording and multivariate statistical analysis. Correlative immunofluorescence was added to quantify endogenous molecular recruitments at the cell-cell junction. By analyzing a large number of rare conjugates, we were able to define calcium signatures associated with different states of CD4+ T cell-MDM interactions. Quantitative image analysis of immunostained conjugates detected the propensity of endogenous T cell surface markers and intracellular organelles to polarize towards cell-cell junctions with high and sustained calcium signaling profiles, hence defining immunological synapses. Overall, we developed a broadly applicable approach enabling detailed single cell- and population-based investigations of rare cell-cell communication events with primary cells.

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© The Author(s) 2018


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