T Cell Activation

The activation of naive T cells by an antigen and costimulatory signals initiates clonal expansion of both CD4+ helper and CD8+ cytotoxic T cells. In addition to T cell proliferation, a variety of signalling pathways are activated, leading to the expression of functional cell surface markers and the release of cytokines.

There is a growing market of therapies (bispecific, checkpoint inhibitor antibodies & CAR-T cells) that focus on using the immune system to target cancer. The ability to monitor and quantify activation profiles allows for a greater understanding of how T cells react to certain stimuli which in turn can provide insight into how well drugs will be able to harness the power of the immune system.

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Assay Concept

Multiplexed approach to measure T cell activation, proliferation and cytokine release in a single well.

Figure 1. Illustration of Human T Cell Activation Kit assay principles. Different T cell phenotypes are profiled for the expression of 3 activation markers: CD69 (early), CD25 (late), and HLA-DR (even later). The 2 effector cytokines (IFNγ and TNFα) are also quantified using 2-plex Qbeads in a sandwich immunoassay format in the same well. Simultaneous measurement of T cell proliferation or encoded target cells is possible, but is not included in this illustration.

Key Advantages

Gain additional biological insight into T cell activation status in physiologically relevant models

Figure 2. Kinase inhibitor screen highlights variation in human T cell activation profiles.

PBMCs were treated with a panel of Kinase inhibitors (20 µM) for one hour. CD3/CD28 Dynabeads were then added to stimulate activation for 24 hours. 10 µL samples were analysed using the T Cell Activation Cell and Cytokine Profiling Kit and the iQue system.

(A) Plate view of CD4+CD69+ gating strategy. Green box identifies media only control. Red box identifies cyclosporine control. Yellow boxes identify the compounds shown on graphs B-D (1: Ruxolitinib; 2: Bisindolylmaleimide I; 3: AZD 7762).

(B, C) Expression of CD69, CD25 and HLA-DR on CD4+ and CD8+ cells.

(D) Release of IFNγ and TNFα cytokines from PBMCs.

Simultaneously quantify surface protein & cytokine expression

Figure 3. Quantify variability in activation profile and cytokine release from PBMCs isolated from different donors.

SKOV-3 cells were seeded (4K/well) in a co-culture assay with PBMCs (10K/well) from 3 donors. Activation was induced by CD3/CD28 Dynabeads. Cells were lifted following the adherent cell lifting protocol after 4 days and analyzed using the T Cell Activation Cell and Cytokine Profiling Kit. (A-C) Expression of markers of early (CD69), late (CD25) and even later (HLA-DR) T cell activation. (D) IFNγ release by each donor.

Easy to use and interpret; pre-defined gating strategy

Figure 4. Pre-defined gates on iQue Forecyt® enable automatic phenotyping of human T cell subsets.

Minimal sample manipulation: low volume, one wash, no dilution

  • Simple protocol where cells and supernatant are taken as one sample allowing for a streamlined workflow.
  • No labelling, or compensation optimization steps required.

Figure 5a. Easy to follow protocol for the analysis of T cell phenotypes and cytokine release using the T Cell Activation Kit.

Figure 5b. Easy to follow modified protocol to allow the inclusion of target cells in the assay. Allowing the analysis of T cell phenotypes and cytokine release using the T Cell Activation Kit.

Frequently Asked Questions

The iQue® Human T Cell Activation Kit uses a multiplexed approach to perform activated T cell immunophenotyping and cytokine detection simultaneously.  The kit provides the appropriate antibodies for the identification of activated T cells as well as iQue Qbeads® for the detection and quantification of secreted IFN and TNF.  Both components are added to each assay well together with a viability dye and incubated with the cell and supernatant sample mixture.  A preset gating strategy then separates the fluorescent signals from cells and beads and auto populates the accompanying template in order to express the data for both T cell populations and cytokine concentrations. 

The iQue® Human T Cell Activation Kit allows for a single assay plate to be used for multiple measurements during a time course.  Only a tiny volume (10 µL) of cell and supernatant sample is needed to perform analysis using the T Cell Activation kit, meaning that once each sample has been taken (aseptically in a hood) the assay plate can be returned to the incubator ready for the next sample in your time course.  Before taking a sample it is recommended to gently triturate the contents to ensure even sampling however this will not affect the cells nor will the small sample volume.   

The iQue® Human T Cell Activation Kit can be used in combination with the iQue® Human T Cell Companion Kits which allow the measurement of up to 6 human cytokines in addition to those already included in the T Cell Activation kit.  Sartorius also offers a range of both cytokine and chemokine detection iQue Qbeads® so that customers can make their own additional panels to be multiplexed with the T Cell Activation kit.  A single 10 µL sample can be used to analyze up to 30 secreted proteins and customers can choose from over 50 analytes to quantify.  And, if your particular analyte is not offered in our current portfolio, iQue Qbead® Devscreen reagents allow the flexibility to attach your own capture antibodies or target proteins for a more bespoke, personalized solution.

Ordering Information

T Cell Activation Kit


Compatible with iQue3 VBR configuration

Available Sizes

Catalog Numbers

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1 x 96 well


T Cell Activation Kit

5 x 96 wells


1 x 384 wells


5 x 384 wells


Technical Resources


iQue® Brochure

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iQue® Reagent Kits

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Published Book Chapter: Novel Multiplexed Platform

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T Cell Activation Kit Product Guide

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Adherent Cell Lifting Protocol

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Transform Your Immune Cell Profiling

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Application Note

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iQue Forecyt® Software and T-Cell Activation Workflow

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