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Annu Rev Immunol. 1992;10:835-73.

Molecular components of T-cell recognition.

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1
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University, California 94305.

Abstract

We review recent data that increase our understanding of the ternary complex of the T cell receptor (TCR), antigenic peptides, and molecules of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Studies using synthetic peptide analogs for T-cell antigens have identified peptide residues that appear to interact with the MHC molecule and/or the TCR. The logical extension of these studies, using a complete replacement set of peptide analogues for a model peptide antigen, has more precisely defined the biochemical character of putative MHC and TCR contact residues, and indicated that the TCR is highly sensitive to subtle changes in peptide conformation. Insight into the binding site for peptide on the TCR has recently come from variant peptide immunization of TCR single-chain transgenic mice. These experiments indicate that residues encoded by the V(D)J junctions of both TCR chains contact peptide directly. TCR-MHC contacts have also been studied, using in vitro-mutagenized MHC molecules, particularly those altered at residues predicted to point "up," toward the TCR. These studies reveal that TCR-MHC contacts appear to be quite flexible, and vary between even closely related TCRs. A measure of the affinity of TCR for peptide/MHC complexes has come from competition experiments using soluble MHC complexed with specific peptides. This affinity, with a KD of 5 x 10(-5) M, is several orders of magnitude lower than that of most antibodies for their protein antigens and suggests that the sequence of events leading to T-cell activation begins with antigen-independent adhesion.

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