An Integrated Workflow To Assess Technical and Biological Variability of Cell Population Frequencies in Human Peripheral Blood by Flow Cytometry
Burel JG, Qian Y, Lindestam Arlehamn C, Weiskopf D, Zapardiel-Gonzalo J, Taplitz R, Gilman RH, Saito M, de Silva AD, Vijayanand P, Scheuermann RH, Sette A, Peters B
In the context of large-scale human system immunology studies, controlling for technical and biological variability is crucial to ensure that experimental data support research conclusions. In this study, we report on a universal workflow to evaluate both technical and biological variation in multiparameter flow cytometry, applied to the development of a 10-color panel to identify all major cell populations and T cell subsets in cryopreserved PBMC. Replicate runs from a control donation and comparison of different gating strategies assessed the technical variability associated with each cell population and permitted the calculation of a quality control score. Applying our panel to a large collection of PBMC samples, we found that most cell populations showed low intraindividual variability over time. In contrast, certain subpopulations such as CD56 T cells and Temra CD4 T cells were associated with high interindividual variability. Age but not gender had a significant effect on the frequency of several populations, with a drastic decrease in naive T cells observed in older donors. Ethnicity also influenced a significant proportion of immune cell population frequencies, emphasizing the need to account for these covariates in immune profiling studies. We also exemplify the usefulness of our workflow by identifying a novel cell-subset signature of latent tuberculosis infection. Thus, our study provides a universal workflow to establish and evaluate any flow cytometry panel in systems immunology studies.