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Molecular design of the γδT cell receptor ectodomain encodes biologically fit ligand recognition in the absence of mechanosensing


Mallis R.J. , Duke-Cohan J.S. , Das D.K. , Akitsu A. , Luoma A.M. , Banik D. , Stephens H.M. , Tetteh P.W. , Castro C.D. , Krahnke S. , Hussey R.E. , Lawney B. , Brazin K.N. , Reche P.A. , Hwang W. , Adams E.J. , Lang M.J. , Reinherz E.L. . PNAS. 2021 ; 118(26). e2023050118


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High-acuity αβT cell receptor (TCR) recognition of peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex molecules (pMHCs) requires mechanosensing, a process whereby piconewton (pN) bioforces exert physical load on αβTCR–pMHC bonds to dynamically alter their lifetimes and foster digital sensitivity cellular signaling. While mechanotransduction is operative for both αβTCRs and pre-TCRs within the αβT lineage, its role in γδT cells is unknown. Here, we show that the human DP10.7 γδTCR specific for the sulfoglycolipid sulfatide bound to CD1d only sustains a significant load and undergoes force-induced structural transitions when the binding interface-distal γδ constant domain (C) module is replaced with that of αβ. The chimeric γδ–αβTCR also signals more robustly than does the wild-type (WT) γδTCR, as revealed by RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) analysis of TCR-transduced Rag2−/− thymocytes, consistent with structural, single-molecule, and molecular dynamics studies reflective of γδTCRs as mediating recognition via a more canonical immunoglobulin-like receptor interaction. Absence of robust, force-related catch bonds, as well as γδTCR structural transitions, implies that γδT cells do not use mechanosensing for ligand recognition. This distinction is consonant with the fact that their innate-type ligands, including markers of cellular stress, are expressed at a high copy number relative to the sparse pMHC ligands of αβT cells arrayed on activating target cells. We posit that mechanosensing emerged over ∼200 million years of vertebrate evolution to fulfill indispensable adaptive immune recognition requirements for pMHC in the αβT cell lineage that are unnecessary for the γδT cell lineage mechanism of non-pMHC ligand detection.