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Immunity. 2005 Feb;22(2):185-94.

Immunological synapses are versatile structures enabling selective T cell polarization.

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INSERM U563, Lymphocyte Interaction Group, Institut Claude de Préval, 31059 Toulouse.


Helper T cells discriminate among different antigen-presenting cells to provide their help in a selective fashion. The molecular mechanisms leading to this exquisite selectivity are still elusive. Here, we demonstrate that immunological synapses are dynamic and adaptable structures allowing T cells to communicate with multiple cells. We show that T cells can form simultaneous immunological synapses with cells presenting different levels of antigenic ligands but eventually polarize toward the strongest stimulus. Remarkably, living T cells form discrete foci of signal transduction of different intensities during the interaction with different antigen-presenting cells and rapidly relocate TCR and Golgi apparatus toward the cell providing the strongest stimulus. Our results illustrate that, although T cell activation requires sustained signaling, T cells are capable of rapid synapse remodeling and swift polarization responses. The combination of sustained signaling with preferential and rapid polarization provides a mechanism for the high sensitivity and selectivity of T cell responses.

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