T cells are a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte which can actively ward off and destroy infected cells. As part of the immune response system, T cells relay signals to other immune cells that foreign particles are present. To fully understand the roles T cells play, immuno-oncology researchers have begun characterizing the different populations of immune cells, including T cells and their subsets.

T cell activation and expansion kits and reagents help isolate, activate, and expand your T cells while maintaining the viability of your isolated T cells for downstream immuno-oncology analysis.

What is clonal T cell expansion?

Clonal T cell expansion is the process of T cell activation and proliferation which occurs naturally in vivo when the human body is actively fighting an infection or an immune system attack. In vitro, clonal T cell expansion happens when a naïve T cell recognizes and binds to a specific antigen, activating the T cell to proliferate rapidly—or expand (Figure 1).

T cell activation with Dynabeads magnetic beads

Dynabeads T cell activation and expansion products mimic in vivo T cell activation from antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Key benefits of Dynabeads T cell activation and expansion kits include:

  • Easy protocol—No need to prepare autologous APCs, feeder cells, antigens, or pre-coat antibodies to beads
  • Physiological activation—Includes simultaneous signaling with agonistic monoclonal antibodies to CD3/TCR and CD28
  • Stimulate and re-stimulate—Magnetic beads can be easily released from cells and re-added, enabling multiple rounds of cell re-stimulation.
  • Viability and functionality—Cells keep their functionality with a cytokine profile and a full T cell repertoire reflecting in vivo settings


Polyclonal T cell expansion

Dynabeads T-Activator CD3/CD28 products for human and mouse are ideal for short-time stimulation studies and T cell expansion of polyclonal T cells (e.g., T cell subsets isolated from whole blood, mononuclear cells, or tissue digests).

The CD3 and CD28 antibodies on the Dynabeads magnetic beads surface simultaneously bind the CD3 and CD28 antigens on the target cells, thus initiating the signaling pathway. CD28 signaling causes the initial activation of naive CD4 T cells by increasing the sensitivity of the T cell to antigen receptor engagement and, as a result, expansion is induced. 

The antibodies are coupled onto 4.5 µm-sized beads (almost as large as APCs), and the resulting 3D structure enables activation very similar to physiological activation in the body (Figure 2). The optimized antibody amount and product reproducibility results in consistently higher levels of activation compared to more primitive alternatives like mitogens or soluble antibodies.

The protocols are straightforward, highly consistent, and do not require additional factors such as autologous APC, mitogens, antigen, or feeder cells. Dynabeads T cell expansion kits outperform traditional home-brew methods for generic activation. Moreover, the same technology platform can be used when transitioning from mouse or human studies to clinical research.

Hear what some of our valued customers say about the T cell activation beads:

"I used the CD3/CD28 Dynabeads [kit] for my proliferation experiment, and the experiment worked beautifully! I have been trying to get to work for a couple of months using soluble CD28/CD3, and it was just not happening. Dynabeads [magnetic beads] have definitely made my day!"

Lisa S. Thomas, Research Associate IV, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Ag-specific T cell expansion

Another application for Dynabeads T cell activation and expansion products is T cell re-stimulation and expansion of antigen-specific (Ag-specific) T cells from cell lines, cell clones, or freshly isolated and enriched Ag-specific T cells.

To allow for expansion of human antigen-specific T cells, the magnetic beads are conjugated with anti-CD3, anti-CD28, and anti-CD137 antibodies (Figure 3). CD137 (4-1BB) is a member of the tumor necrosis factor family, and agonistic anti-CD137 antibodies act as an activating co-stimulatory molecule especially important for effector/memory T cells and promote the survival and proliferation of T lymphocytes.

This technology allows you to activate and/or expand naïve and memory T cells, T cell clones, regulatory T cells, natural killer T (NKT) cells, and cytoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) from mouse and human samples.

Diagram showing how Ag-specific T cells activate and expand after receiving specific stimuli in nature by CD80/CD86, MHC, and CD137L
Figure 2. Ag-specific T cell expansion in nature. A dendritic cell presents three stimuli to the Ag-specific T cell: CD80/CD86, MHC, and CD137L to activate the Ag-specific T cell.
Diagram  showing how Ag-specific T cells activate and expand after receiving specific stimuli from the Dynabeads magnetic beads anti-CD28, anti-CD3, and anti-CD137.
Figure 3. Ag-specific T cell expansion with Dynabeads T cell activators. A Dynabeads magnetic bead presents three stimuli to the Ag-specific T cell: anti-CD28, anti-CD3, and anti-CD137 to activate the Ag-specific T cell.

Videos on T cell activation and expansion

Video: Dynabeads T cell activation steps

Video: Tour of an activated T cell

Dynabeads FlowComp positive cell isolation kits for your flow cytometry cell sorting experiments

Ordering information for T cell activation products
Human icon  
Mouse icon  

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

Hero banner dark gradient overlay
Stylesheet for Classic Wide Template adjustments