The NIH Tetramer Core Facility (TCF) at Emory University was established in 1999 for the production and distribution to the research community of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) tetramers and related reagents for the detection of T cell responses to viruses, bacteria, parasites, tumors, auto-antigens, and other model antigens. The TCF is funded by contract 75N93020D00005 via the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Reagents are provided to qualified investigators at no cost, except for shipping and handling fees and in cases where the investigator is asked to provide the TCF with peptide or other appropriate ligands. Investigators are not required to have an NIH grant, and they are not required to be based in the US.

The following classes of reagents are available from the TCF:

  • Class I MHC Tetramers. We have a large library of expression constructs for classical class I alleles from the mouse, humans, rhesus macaques, and chimpanzees. 
  • Class II MHC Tetramers. We have a library of more than 248 pre-existing class II tetramers from a variety of species, again including the mouse, humans, rhesus macaques, and chimpanzees.
  • Non-classical class I MHC molecules. A range of CD1 molecules from a range of species is available, including many complexed with well-characterized ligands such as the PBS57 molecule that is a CD1d-restricted agonist for NKT cells. Additional non-classical MHC molecules that are available are HLA-E, Qa-1b, Q9,  H-2M3, T3b, T22, H2-M10.2, M10.5, and M10.7.
  • CD1d Ligands. In addition to providing CD1d molecules with defined lipid ligands, we also provide a select range of these molecules in their unbound form. These include OCH, C-glycoside (α-C-GalCer), and GSL-1. 
  • MR1 Tetramers. We are currently providing mouse, human, and rhesus macaque MR1 tetramers loaded with 5-A-RU and methylglyoxal, resulting in the ligand 5-OP-RU. MR1 tetramers loaded with 6-FP are provided as a negative control.
  • Non-MHC Tetramers. We have a small library of tetrameric versions of non-MHC molecules.
  • Fluorophores and other labels attached to tetramers. We provide tetramers with a variety of fluorophores, including PE, APC, BV421, fluorescein, Alexa488, Alexa 568, Alexa647, and Alexa680. Requests for additional labels will be considered.
  • Novel alleles. The TCF will produce expression constructs for MHC alleles not already present in our library following investigator-initiated request and NIH approval, including for MHC proteins from species not already represented in our library.


Dr. John Altman is the Principal Investigator of the NIH Tetramer Facility, Dr. Rick Willis is the Technical Director, and Dale Long is the Facility Manager. Overall program supervision is conducted by Dr. Halonna Kelly at the NIAID with input from the Tetramer Resource Committee (TRC), and all general questions regarding Tetramer Facility operations and the request process should be directed to Dr. Kelly. Reagent requests are submitted on-line using request forms available at the NIH Tetramer Facility website. The TRC reviews and prioritizes all tetramer reagent requests. After submission and prior to approval, the processing of tetramer requests is managed by the Facility Manager, Dale Long. Questions regarding previously submitted requests that have not yet been approved as well as questions concerning registration with the Facility should be directed to Mr. Long or Dr. Halonna Kelly. After approval, questions regarding tetramer requests should be directed to Dale Long. Questions about technical issues related to tetramer usage should be sent to Dr. Rick Willis.


The NIH Tetramer Facility is part of the Emory Vaccine Center located in the Emory National Primate Research Center (ENPRC) at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.