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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Oct 15;99(21):13729-34. Epub 2002 Oct 8.

Soluble peptide-MHC monomers cause activation of CD8+ T cells through transfer of the peptide to T cell MHC molecules.

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Department of Biology, Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


T cell receptor (TCR)-mediated activation of CD4(+) T cells is known to require multivalent engagement of the TCR by, for example, oligomeric peptide-MHC complexes. In contrast, for CD8(+) T cells, there is evidence for TCR-mediated activation by univalent engagement of the TCR. We have here compared oligomeric and monomeric L(d) and K(b) peptide-MHC complexes and free peptide as stimulators of CD8(+) T cells expressing the 2C TCR. We found that the monomers are indeed effective in activating naive and effector CD8(+) T cells, but through an unexpected mechanism that involves transfer of peptide from soluble monomers to T cell endogenous MHC (K(b)) molecules. The result is that T cells, acting as antigen-presenting cells, are able to activate other naive T cells.

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