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Immunity. 2002 Apr;16(4):595-606.

Imaging synapse formation during thymocyte selection: inability of CD3zeta to form a stable central accumulation during negative selection.

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Program in Immunology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


TCR signaling can result in cell fates ranging from activation to tolerance to apoptosis. Organization of molecules in an "immunological synapse" between mature T cells and APCs correlates with the strength of TCR signaling. To investigate synapse formation during thymic selection, we have established a reaggregate system in which molecular recruitment of GFP fusion proteins to thymocyte:stromal cell interfaces can be visualized in real time. We demonstrate that negative selection is associated with efficient conjugate formation and rapid recruitment of p56(lck) and CD3zeta to an immunological synapse. Interestingly, CD3zeta-GFP does not accumulate at the center of the synapse, as in mature T cells, but at the periphery across a wide range of ligand densities. This implicates differences in synapse geometry in initiation of alternate signals downstream of the TCR.

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