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Asymmetric framework motion of TCRαβ controls load-dependent peptide discrimination


Chang-Gonzalez Ana C , Mallis Robert J , Lang Matthew J , Reinherz Ellis L , Hwang Wonmuk . eLife. 2024 1 3; 13().


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Mechanical force is critical for the interaction between an αβ T cell receptor (TCR) and a peptide-bound major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) molecule to initiate productive T-cell acti- vation. However, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. We use all-atom molecular dynamics simulations to examine the A6 TCR bound to HLA-A*02:01 presenting agonist or antagonist peptides under different extensions to simulate the effects of applied load on the complex, eluci- dating their divergent biological responses. We found that TCR α and β chains move asymmetrically, which impacts the interface with pMHC, in particular the peptide-sensing CDR3 loops. For the wild- type agonist, the complex stabilizes in a load-dependent manner while antagonists destabilize it. Simulations of the Cβ FG-loop deletion, which reduces the catch bond response, and simulations with in silico mutant peptides further support the observed behaviors. The present results highlight the combined role of interdomain motion, fluctuating forces, and interfacial contacts in determining the mechanical response and fine peptide discrimination by a TCR, thereby resolving the conundrum of nearly identical crystal structures of TCRαβ-pMHC agonist and antagonist complexes.