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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2009 Jul;1(1):a002873. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a002873.

Modular design of immunological synapses and kinapses.

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  • 1Program in Molecular Pathogenesis, Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine, The Helen L and Martin S Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York 10016, USA.


The concept of an immunological synapse goes back to the early 1980s with the discovery of the relationship between T-cell antigen receptor mediated Ca(2+) signaling, adhesion, and directed secretion. However, this concept did not gain traction until images were published starting in 1998 that revealed a specific molecular pattern in the interface between T cells and model antigen-presenting cells or supported planar bilayers. The dominant pattern, a ring of adhesion molecules surrounding a central cluster of antigen receptors, was observed in both model systems. Analysis of the origins of this pattern over the past 10 years has presented a solution for a difficult problem in lymphocyte biology--how a highly motile cell can suddenly stop when it encounters a signal delivered by just a few antigenic ligands on the surface of another cell without disabling the sensory machinery of the motile cell. The T lymphocyte actively assembles the immunological synapse pattern following a modular design with roots in actin-myosin-based motility.

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