Lymphocyte Identity Cards

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Science  07 Nov 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5903, pp. 823
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5903.823b

The determination of lineage, whether in genealogy, paleontology, or cell biology, can be very difficult. Schepers et al. have developed a retroviral tagging procedure by introducing a “bar code” into individual cells that persists in all of their progeny. The authors used a library of around 5000 tags, which can be identified by PCR amplification and microarray analysis, to monitor the life histories of T cells during the course of an infection.

A T cell population, specific for the antigen OVA, was transformed with the bar-code library and introduced into mice, which were subsequently injected with tumor cells and infected with influenza virus, both bearing the OVA antigen. At first, T cells in lymph nodes draining the two sites of invasion formed genetically distinct populations, distinguishable by their bar codes; however, the T cell populations in lung and tumor tissues had similar bar-code distributions, showing that they had originated from several lymph nodes. Over time, both lymph node T cell populations became similar as the infections stimulated the migration of T cells throughout the mouse. This technology has the potential to unravel lineage relationships in a wide range of cells, and the authors have already created a lentivirus library for use with quiescent cell types resistant to retroviral infection. — CS*

J. Exp. Med. 205, 2309 (2008).

  • *Helen Pickersgill and Chris Surridge are locum editors in Science's editorial department.

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