Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells secrete a wide variety of cytokines and rapidly respond to lipid antigenic stimulation [1–2]. They are a CD1d-restricted population of T cells which can be uniquely identified based on the expression of CD1d T cell receptors (TCRs) as well as typical T lymphocyte markers (CD3, CD4 and CD8), natural killer (NK) markers (CD161 and CD56) and the novel 6B11 monoclonal antibody (mAb) against invariant Vα24Jα18 TCR [3–5]. On the basis of CD4 and CD8 expression, mature iNKT cells can be divided into functionally distinct subsets, i.e., CD4+ CD8-, CD4- CD8-, and CD4- CD8+[1–3].



Cell preparation for iNKT cell and Mucosal Associated Invariant T cell identification

1. Collect at least 30 mL of whole blood in anticoagulant (EDTA or Heparin) and proceed with PBMC isolation within 4 hours of collection.
2. Divide the blood equally into two 50 mL conical tubes and dilute with an equal amount of dPBS (1:1).
3. Add 15 mL of Ficoll-Paque® at the bottom of two new 50 mL conical tubes.
4. Gently add 30 mL of the diluted whole blood samples over the Ficoll-Paque® while being careful to not break the Ficoll-Paque® surface.
5. Centrifuge the tubes at 400 x g for 20 minutes at room temperature with the brakes off.
6. Aspirate the upper layer while leaving the mononuclear cell layer (lymphocytes, monocytes, and thrombocytes) undisturbed at the interphase.
7. Carefully harvest the mononuclear cell layers from both tubes into a new 50 mL conical tube.
8. Gently top up the new 50 mL conical tube with dPBS to wash the cells.
9. Centrifuge the cells at 400 x g for 5 minutes at 4°C. Carefully remove all supernatant and discard.
10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 to wash the cells again.
11. Resuspend the cells in an appropriate volume of dPBS to perform a cell count and viability analysis using Turk or Trypan Blue.

Cell staining for iNKT cell identification

1. Prepare tubes for each single-stained control, fluorescence minus one (FMO) control and iNKT antibodies for identifying cells of interest.
2. Resuspend the cells to 5 x 106 cells per tube.
3. Wash the cells with dPBS+0.5% FBS. Centrifuge the cells at 300 x g for 5 minutes at room temperature. Discard the supernatant.
4. Resuspend the cells with an appropriate amount of dPBS+0.5% FBS. Add the antibodies to their respective tubes.
5. Vortex the tubes and incubate them for 20 minutes at 20°C in the dark.
6. Wash the cells with dPBS+0.5% FBS. Centrifuge the tubes at 400 x g for 5 minutes at 20°C. Discard the supernatant.
7. Resuspend the cells in dPBS+0.5% FBS to a concentration between 4 x 106 and 10 x 106 cells/mL.
8. Acquire the cells using a flow cytometer.


1. Hogquist, K., & Georgiev, H. (2020). Recent advances in iNKT cell development. F1000Research, 9, F1000 Faculty Rev-127.
2. Dowds, C. M., Kornell, S. C., Blumberg, R. S., & Zeissig, S. (2014). Lipid antigens in immunity. Biological chemistry, 395(1), 61–81.
3. de Jong A. (2015). Activation of human T cells by CD1 and self-lipids. Immunological reviews, 267(1), 16–29.
4. Girardi, E., & Zajonc, D. M. (2012). Molecular basis of lipid antigen presentation by CD1d and recognition by natural killer T cells. Immunological reviews, 250(1), 167–179.
5. Montoya, C. J., Pollard, D., Martinson, J., Kumari, K., Wasserfall, C., Mulder, C. B., Rugeles, M. T., Atkinson, M. A., Landay, A. L., & Wilson, S. B. (2007). Characterization of human invariant natural killer T subsets in health and disease using a novel invariant natural killer T cell-clonotypic monoclonal antibody, 6B11. Immunology, 122(1), 1–14.

For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.