Cumulative T-cell receptor signal strength and ensuing T-cell responses are affected by both antigen affinity and antigen dose. Here we examined the distinct contributions of these parameters to CD4 T-cell differentiation during infection. We found that high antigen affinity positively correlates with T helper (Th)1 differentiation at both high and low doses of antigen. In contrast, follicular helper T cell (TFH) effectors are generated after priming with high, intermediate, and low affinity ligand. Unexpectedly, memory T cells generated after priming with very low affinity antigen remain impaired in their ability to generate secondary Th1 effectors, despite being recalled with high affinity antigen. These data challenge the view that only strongly stimulated CD4 T cells are capable of differentiating into the TFH and memory T-cell compartments and reveal that differential strength of stimulation during primary T-cell activation imprints unique and long lasting T-cell differentiation programs.
The mature T cell repertoire has the ability to orchestrate immunity to a wide range of potential pathogen challenges. This ability stems from thymic development producing individual T cell clonotypes that express TCRs with unique patterns of Ag reactivity. The Ag specificity of TCRs is created from the combinatorial pairing of one of a set of germline encoded TCR V? and V? gene segments with randomly created CDR3 sequences. How the amalgamation of germline encoded and randomly created TCR sequences results in Ag receptors with unique patterns of ligand specificity is not fully understood. Using cellular, biophysical, and structural analyses, we show that CDR3? residues can modulate the geometry in which TCRs bind peptide-MHC (pMHC), governing whether and how germline encoded TCR V? and V? residues interact with MHC. In addition, a CDR1? residue that is positioned distal to the TCR-pMHC binding interface is shown to contribute to the peptide specificity of T cells. These findings demonstrate that the specificity of individual T cell clonotypes arises not only from TCR residues that create direct contacts with the pMHC, but also from a collection of indirect effects that modulate how TCR residues are used to bind pMHC.
In the thymus, high-affinity, self-reactive thymocytes are eliminated from the pool of developing T cells, generating central tolerance. Here, we investigate how developing T cells measure self-antigen affinity. We show that very few CD4 or CD8 coreceptor molecules are coupled with the signal-initiating kinase, Lck. To initiate signaling, an antigen-engaged T cell receptor (TCR) scans multiple coreceptor molecules to find one that is coupled to Lck; this is the first and rate-limiting step in a kinetic proofreading chain of events that eventually leads to TCR triggering and negative selection. MHCII-restricted TCRs require a shorter antigen dwell time (0.2 s) to initiate negative selection compared to MHCI-restricted TCRs (0.9 s) because more CD4 coreceptors are Lck-loaded compared to CD8. We generated a model (Lck come&stay/signal duration) that accurately predicts the observed differences in antigen dwell-time thresholds used by MHCI- and MHCII-restricted thymocytes to initiate negative selection and generate self-tolerance.
Human genetic and environmental factors underlie susceptibility to the T cell-mediated autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis (MS). How the environment influences the pathogenesis of MS has been difficult to parse. A recent paper in Cell shows that environmental antigens that activate myelin-specific T cells can be identified with unprecedented accuracy.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease of the CNS that causes the demyelination of nerve cells and destroys oligodendrocytes, neurons, and axons. Historically, MS has been thought to be a CD4 T cell-mediated autoimmune disease of CNS white matter. However, recent studies identified CD8 T cell infiltrates and gray matter lesions in MS patients. These findings suggest that CD8 T cells and CNS Ags other than myelin proteins may be involved during the MS disease process. In this article, we show that CD8 T cells reactive to glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), a protein expressed in astrocytes, can avoid tolerance mechanisms and, depending upon the T cell-triggering event, drive unique aspects of inflammatory CNS autoimmunity. In GFAP-specific CD8 TCR-transgenic (BG1) mice, tissue resident memory-like CD8 T cells spontaneously infiltrate the gray matter and white matter of the CNS, resulting in a relapsing-remitting CNS autoimmunity. The frequency, severity, and remissions from spontaneous disease are controlled by the presence of polyclonal B cells. In contrast, a viral trigger induces GFAP-specific CD8 T effector cells to exclusively target the meninges and vascular/perivascular space of the gray and white matter of the brain, causing a rapid, acute CNS disease. These findings demonstrate that the type of CD8 T cell-triggering event can determine the presentation of distinct CNS autoimmune disease pathologies.
A naive CD4(+) T cell population specific for a microbial peptide:major histocompatibility complex II ligand (p:MHCII) typically consists of about 100 cells, each with a different T cell receptor (TCR). Following infection, this population produces a consistent ratio of effector cells that activate microbicidal functions of macrophages or help B cells make antibodies. We studied the mechanism that underlies this division of labor by tracking the progeny of single naive T cells. Different naive cells produced distinct ratios of macrophage and B cell helpers but yielded the characteristic ratio when averaged together. The effector cell pattern produced by a given naive cell correlated with the TCR-p:MHCII dwell time or the amount of p:MHCII. Thus, the consistent production of effector cell subsets by a polyclonal population of naive cells results from averaging the diverse behaviors of individual clones, which are instructed in part by the strength of TCR signaling.
A limited set of T cell receptor (TCR) variable (V) gene segments are used to create a repertoire of TCRs that recognize all major histocompatibility complex (MHC) ligands within a species. How individual ??TCRs are constructed to specifically recognize a limited set of MHC ligands is unclear. Here we have identified a role for the differential pairing of particular V gene segments in creating TCRs that recognized MHC class II ligands exclusively, or cross-reacted with classical and nonclassical MHC class I ligands. Biophysical and structural experiments indicated that TCR specificity for MHC ligands is not driven by germline-encoded pairwise interactions.Rather, identical TCR? chains can have altered peptide-MHC (pMHC) binding modes when paired with different TCR? chains. The ability of TCR chain pairing to modify how V region residues interact with pMHC helps to explain how the same V genes are used to create TCRs specific for unique MHC ligands.
Major histocompatibility complex class I (MHCI) and MHCII proteins differ in structure and sequence. To understand how T cell receptors (TCRs) can use the same set of variable regions to bind both proteins, we have presented a comparison of a single TCR bound to both MHCI and MHCII ligands. The TCR adopts similar orientations on both ligands with TCR amino acids thought to be evolutionarily conserved for MHC interaction occupying similar positions on the MHCI and MHCII helices. However, the TCR antigen-binding loops use different conformations when interacting with each ligand. Most importantly, we observed alternate TCR core conformations. When bound to MHCI, but not MHCII, V? disengages from the J? ? strand, switching V?s position relative to V?. In several other structures, either V? or V? undergoes this same modification. Thus, both TCR V-domains can switch among alternate conformations, perhaps extending their ability to react with different MHC-peptide ligands.
Two contrasting theories have emerged that attempt to describe T-cell ligand potency, one based on the t(1/2) of the interaction and the other based on the equilibrium affinity (K(D)). Here, we have identified and studied an extensive set of T-cell receptor (TCR)-peptide-MHC (pMHC) interactions for CD4(+) cells that have differential K(D)s and kinetics of binding. Our data indicate that ligands with a short t(1/2) can be highly stimulatory if they have fast on-rates. Simple models suggest these fast kinetic ligands are stimulatory because the pMHCs bind and rebind the same TCR several times. Rebinding occurs when the TCR-pMHC on-rate outcompetes TCR-pMHC diffusion within the cell membrane, creating an aggregate t(1/2) (t(a)) that can be significantly longer than a single TCR-pMHC encounter. Accounting for t(a), ligand potency is K(D)-based when ligands have fast on-rates (k(on)) and t(1/2)-dependent when they have slow k(on). Thus, TCR-pMHC k(on) allow high-affinity short t(1/2) ligands to follow a kinetic proofreading model.
The T-cell receptor (TCR)-CD3 complex serves as a central paradigm for general principles of receptor assembly, ligand recognition, and signaling in the immune system. There is no other receptor system that matches the diversity of both receptor and ligand components. The recent expansion of the immunological structural database is beginning to identify key principles of MHC and peptide recognition. The multicomponent assembly of the TCR complex illustrates general principles used by many receptors in the immune system, which rely on basic and acidic transmembrane residues to guide assembly. The intrinsic binding of the cytoplasmic domains of the CD3epsilon and zeta chains to the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane represents a novel mechanism for control of receptor activation: Insertion of critical CD3epsilon tyrosines into the hydrophobic membrane core prevents their phosphorylation before receptor engagement.
T-cell recognition of ligands is polyspecific. This translates into antiviral T-cell responses having a range of potency and specificity for viral ligands. How these ligand recognition patterns are established is not fully understood. Here, we show that an activation threshold regulates whether robust CD4 T-cell activation occurs following viral infection. The activation threshold was variable because of its dependence on the density of the viral peptide (p)MHC displayed on infected cells. Furthermore, the activation threshold was not observed to be a specific equilibrium affinity (K(D)) or half-life (t(1/2)) of the TCR-viral pMHC interaction, rather it correlated with the confinement time of TCR-pMHC interactions, i.e., the half-life (t(1/2)) of the interaction accounting for the effects of TCR-pMHC rebinding. One effect of a variable activation threshold is to allow high-density viral pMHC ligands to expand CD4 T cells with a variety of potency and peptide cross-reactivity patterns for the viral pMHC ligand, some of which are only poorly activated by infections that produce a lower density of the viral pMHC ligand. These results argue that antigen concentration is a key component in determining the pattern of K(D), t(1/2) and peptide cross-reactivity of the TCRs expressed on CD4 T cells responding to infection.
A growing body of evidence suggests that autoreactive CD8 T cells contribute to the disease process in multiple sclerosis (MS). Lymphocytes in MS plaques are biased toward the CD8 lineage, and MS patients harbor CD8 T cells specific for multiple central nervous system (CNS) antigens. Currently, there are relatively few experimental model systems available to study these pathogenic CD8 T cells in vivo. However, the few studies that have been done characterizing the mechanisms used by CD8 T cells to induce CNS autoimmunity indicate that several of the paradigms of how CD4 T cells mediate CNS autoimmunity do not hold true for CD8 T cells or for patients with MS. Thus, myelin-specific CD4 T cells are likely to be one of several important mechanisms that drive CNS disease in MS patients. The focus of this review is to highlight the current models of pathogenic CNS-reactive CD8 T cells and the molecular mechanisms these lymphocytes use when causing CNS inflammation and damage. Understanding how CNS-reactive CD8 T cells escape tolerance induction and induce CNS autoimmunity is critical to our ability to propose and test new therapies for MS.
T cell receptor (TCR) engagement induces clustering and recruitment to the plasma membrane of many signaling molecules, including the protein tyrosine kinase zeta-chain associated protein of 70 kDa (ZAP70) and the adaptor SH2 domain-containing leukocyte protein of 76 kDa (SLP76). This molecular rearrangement results in formation of the immunological synapse (IS), a dynamic protein array that modulates T cell activation. The current study investigates the effects of apparent long-range ligand mobility on T cell signaling activity and IS formation. We formed stimulatory lipid bilayers on glass surfaces from binary lipid mixtures with varied composition, and characterized these surfaces with respect to diffusion coefficient and fluid connectivity. Stimulatory ligands coupled to these surfaces with similar density and orientation showed differences in their ability to activate T cells. On less mobile membranes, central supramolecular activation cluster (cSMAC) formation was delayed and the overall accumulation of CD3? at the IS was reduced. Analysis of signaling microcluster (MC) dynamics showed that ZAP70 MCs exhibited faster track velocity and longer trajectories as a function of increased ligand mobility, whereas movement of SLP76 MCs was relatively insensitive to this parameter. Actin retrograde flow was observed on all surfaces, but cell spreading and subsequent cytoskeletal contraction were more pronounced on mobile membranes. Finally, increased tyrosine phosphorylation and persistent elevation of intracellular Ca(2+) were observed in cells stimulated on fluid membranes. These results point to ligand mobility as an important parameter in modulating T cell responses.
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