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What are Jurkat Cells used for in cell biology studies?

Jurkat cells are used most significantly to study T-cell Leukaemia, HIV and certain cancers. Jurkat and their derivative cell strains are immortal human T lymphocytes. They are possibly the best-known T-cell line making them a significant cell line. However, in recent years some caution has been advised when using this cell line in modelling typical T-cell function since a number of mutations have been identified. Nevertheless, it is a highly valuable cell line for these, and many other studies.

Most notably this cell line has been very useful for study of HIV, the causative virus of AIDS. Jurkat cells are susceptible to HIV infection since they have the CD4 T-cell receptor (TCR) that is required for HIV attachment and infection of this retrovirus. This makes Jurkat cells a good model to study some (but not all) of the complexities that are seen in HIV infections. Jurkat cell lines can also be used in screening of different antiretroviral treatment strategies. Antiviral agents can be toxic to the host cells meaning that pre-clinical screening of candidates is very important. One of the aspects of HIV that makes it so difficult to eliminate is that the provirus can remain at a low level in a latent reservoir, perhaps in as little as 1 in a million cells. This is enough for the virus to reappear 10 years later for example, if antiviral treatment had ended. It is complexities like this that can occur within clinical cases that can be difficult, if not impossible to replicate in cell line models.

What are the applications of Jurkat cells?

  • RNA silencing 1
  • Identification of the CD4 HIV receptor 2
  • A model for T cell signalling 3
  • Studies in activation and latency of virus


  1. Suppression of MicroRNA-Silencing Pathway by HIV-1 During Virus Replication, R. Triboulet, B. Mari, Yea-Lih Lin, C. Chable-Bessia, Y. Bennasser, K. Lebrigand, B. Cardinaud, T. Maurin, P. Barbry, V. Baillat, J. Reynes, P. Corbeau, Kuan-Teh Jeang, M. Benkirane, Science, 315, 5818, 1579-1582 DOI: 10.1126/science.1136319
  2. Visualizing Cell-to-cell Transfer of HIV using Fluorescent Clones of HIV and Live Confocal Microscopy, B. Dale, G. P. McNerney, D. L. Thompson, W. Hübner, T. Huser, B. K. Chen, Science 323: 1743-1747 (2009)
  3. Jurkat T cells and development of the T-cell receptor signalling paradigm, R. T. Abraham and A. Weiss, 2004, Nature Reviews Immunology, 4, 301–308,
  4. The hexosamine biosynthesis pathway negatively regulates IL-2 production by Jurkat T cells, Ji-Biao Huang, A. J. Clark and H. R. Petty, Cellular Immunology 245 (2007) 1–6
  5. Raman microspectroscopy detects epigenetic modifications in living Jurkat leukemic cells, M. Poplineau, A. Trussardi-Régnier, T. Happillon, J. Dufer, M. Manfait, P. Bernard, O. Piot and F. Antonicelli, Epigenomics, 3, 6,

Read more in the Cell Lines Series

Date: May 2020

Author: Dr Alan Mullan & Aleksandra Marsh

Category: Application Note

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