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αβ T Cell Receptor Mechanosensing Forces out Serial Engagement


Feng Y. , Reinherz E.L. , Lang M.J. . Trends in Immunology. 2018 ; 39(8). 596-609


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T lymphocytes use αβ T cell receptors (TCRs) to recognize sparse antigenic peptides bound to MHC molecules (pMHCs) arrayed on antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Contrary to conventional receptor-ligand associations exemplified by antigen-antibody interactions, forces play a crucial role in nonequilibrium mechanosensor-based T cell activation. Both T cell motility and local cytoskeleton machinery exert forces (i.e., generate loads) on TCR-pMHC bonds. We review biological features of the load-dependent activation process as revealed by optical tweezers single molecule/single cell and other biophysical measurements. The findings link pMHC-triggered TCRs to single cytoskeletal motors; define the importance of energized anisotropic (i.e., force direction dependent) activation; and characterize immunological synapse formation as digital, revealing no serial requirement. The emerging picture suggests new approaches for the monitoring and design of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL)-based immunotherapy.