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Curr Biol. 2000 Dec 14-28;10(24):R923-33.

Information transfer at the immunological synapse.

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Lymphocyte Biology Section, Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Antigen-specific activation of T lymphocytes requires the interaction of their clonally distributed T-cell receptors with plasma membrane ligands composed of foreign peptide antigens bound to major histocompatibility complex molecules. For proliferation and differentiation to ensue, a variety of other adhesive and accessory proteins must also interact with their counter-receptors on the antigen-presenting cell to facilitate and complement the T-cell receptor-antigen recognition event. Recent studies have revealed that these various proteins show an unexpected degree of spatial organization in the zone of cell-cell contact. This region of membrane approximation is now referred to as the "immunological synapse" because of its functional analogy to the site of intercellular information transfer between neurons. Here, we review the evidence for signaling-dependent control of the dynamic changes in protein distribution that gives rise to the synapse and try to relate the emerging spatio-temporal information on synapse formation to T-cell biology.

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