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Nat Immunol. 2002 Oct;3(10):918-25. Epub 2002 Sep 23.

Molecular anatomy of antigen-specific CD8(+) T cell engagement and synapse formation in vivo.

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Division of Virology, Department of Neuropharmacology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Antigen-specific CD8(+) T cells are required for the clearance of most viral infections and several cancers. However, it is not clear in vivo whether CD8(+) T cells can engage multiple targets simultaneously, engagement results in the formation of an immunologic synapse or molecules involved in CD8 function are redistributed to the synapse. We used here high-resolution microscopy to visualize interactions between virus-specific effectors and target cells in vivo. Using either in situ tetramer staining or green fluorescent protein-labeled virus-specific T cells, we have shown that a single CD8(+) T cell can engage two or three targets, a synapse occurs at the site of engagement and molecules involved in attachment (lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1), signaling (Lck) and lytic activity (perforin) are differentially positioned on the T cell. In addition, we have established an in vivo approach for assessing the intricacies of antigen-specific T cell activation, migration, engagement, memory and other defining elements of adaptive immunity.

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