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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008;640:164-82. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-09789-3_13.

Visualization of cell-cell interaction contacts-synapses and kinapses.

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  • 1Program in Molecular Pathogenesis, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine and Department of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, 540 1st Ave, New York, NY 10016, USA.


T-cell activation requires interactions of T-cell antigen receptors (TCR) and peptides presented by major histocompatibility complex molecules (MHCp) in an adhesive junction between the T-cell and antigen-presenting cell (APC). Stable junctions with bull's eye supramolecular activation clusters (SMACs) have been defined as immunological synapses. The term synapse works in this case because it joins roots for "same" and "fasten", which could be translated as "fasten in the same place". These structures maintain T-cell-APC interaction and allow directed secretion. We have proposed that SMACs are not really clusters, but are analogous to higher order membrane-cytoskeleton zones involved in amoeboid locomotion including a substrate testing lamellipodium, an adhesive lamella and anti-adhesive uropod. Since T-cells can also integrate signaling during locomotion over antigen presenting cells, it is important to consider adhesive junctions maintained as cells move past each other. This combination of movement (kine-) and fastening (-apse) can be described as a kinapse or moving junction. Synapses and kinapses operate in different stages of T-cell priming. Optimal effector functions may also depend upon cyclical use of synapses and kinapses. Visualization of these structures in vitro and in vivo presents many distinct challenges that will be discussed in this chapter.

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