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The TCR mechanosensor exploits dynamic ectodomain allostery to optimize its ligand recognition site


Hwang WWonmuk , Mallis RJRobert J , Lang MJMatthew J , Reinherz ELEllis L . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2020 8 13; 117(35). 21336-21345


Each [Formula: see text]T cell receptor (TCR) functions as a mechanosensor. The TCR is comprised of a clonotypic TCR[Formula: see text] ligand-binding heterodimer and the noncovalently associated CD3 signaling subunits. When bound by ligand, an antigenic peptide arrayed by a major histocompatibility complex molecule (pMHC), the TCR[Formula: see text] has a longer bond lifetime under piconewton-level loads. The atomistic mechanism of this “catch bond” behavior is unknown. Here, we perform molecular dynamics simulation of a TCR[Formula: see text]-pMHC complex and its variants under physiologic loads to identify this mechanism and any attendant TCR[Formula: see text] domain allostery. The TCR[Formula: see text]-pMHC interface is dynamically maintained by contacts with a spectrum of occupancies, introducing a level of control via relative motion between Vα and Vβ variable domains containing the pMHC-binding complementarity-determining region (CDR) loops. Without adequate load, the interfacial contacts are unstable, whereas applying sufficient load suppresses Vα-Vβ motion, stabilizing the interface. A second level of control is exerted by Cα and Cβ constant domains, especially Cβ and its protruding FG-loop, that create mismatching interfaces among the four TCR[Formula: see text] domains and with a pMHC ligand. Applied load enhances fit through deformation of the TCR[Formula: see text] molecule. Thus, the catch bond involves the entire TCR[Formula: see text] conformation, interdomain motion, and interfacial contact dynamics, collectively. This multilayered architecture of the machinery fosters fine-tuning of cellular response to load and pMHC recognition. Since the germline-derived TCR[Formula: see text] ectodomain is structurally conserved, the proposed mechanism can be universally adopted to operate under load during immune surveillance by diverse [Formula: see text]TCRs constituting the T cell repertoire.