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Chem Biol. 2000 Sep;7(9):683-96.

A diverse set of oligomeric class II MHC-peptide complexes for probing T-cell receptor interactions.

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Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.



T-cells are activated by engagement of their clonotypic cell surface receptors with peptide complexes of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins, in a poorly understood process that involves receptor clustering on the membrane surface. Few tools are available to study the molecular mechanisms responsible for initiation of activation processes in T-cells.


A topologically diverse set of oligomers of the human MHC protein HLA-DR1, varying in size from dimers to tetramers, was produced by varying the location of an introduced cysteine residue and the number and spacing of sulfhydryl-reactive groups carried on novel and commercially available cross-linking reagents. Fluorescent probes incorporated into the cross-linking reagents facilitated measurement of oligomer binding to the T-cell surface. Oligomeric MHC-peptide complexes, including a variety of MHC dimers, trimers and tetramers, bound to T-cells and initiated T-cell activation processes in an antigen-specific manner.


T-cell receptor dimerization on the cell surface is sufficient to initiate intracellular signaling processes, as a variety of MHC-peptide dimers differing in intramolecular spacing and orientation were each able to trigger early T-cell activation events. The relative binding affinities within a homologous series of MHC-peptide oligomers suggest that T-cell receptors may rearrange in the plane of the membrane concurrent with oligomer binding.

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