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Arthritis Res. 2002;4 Suppl 3:S119-25. Epub 2002 May 9.

The immunological synapse.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine, New York 10016, USA.


T-cell activation requires interaction of T-cell antigen receptors with proteins of the major histocompatibility complex (antigen). This interaction takes place in a specialized cell-cell junction referred to as an immunological synapse. The immunological synapse contains at least two functional domains: a central cluster of engaged antigen receptors and a surrounding ring of adhesion molecules. The segregation of the T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) and adhesion molecules is based on size, with the TCR interaction spanning 15 nm and the lymphocyte-function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) interaction spanning 30-40 nm between the two cells. Therefore, the synapse is not an empty gap, but a space populated by both adhesion and signaling molecules. This chapter considers four aspects of the immunological synapse: the role of migration and stop signals, the role of the cytoskeleton, the role of self-antigenic complexes, and the role of second signals.

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