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J Immunol. 2007 Sep 1;179(5):2952-60.

CD8+ T cell activation is governed by TCR-peptide/MHC affinity, not dissociation rate.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Binding of peptide/MHC (pMHC) complexes by TCR initiates T cell activation. Despite long interest, the exact relationship between the biochemistry of TCR/pMHC interaction (particularly TCR affinity or ligand off-rate) and T cell responses remains unresolved, because the number of complexes examined in each independent system has been too small to draw a definitive conclusion. To test the current models of T cell activation, we have analyzed the interactions between the mouse P14 TCR and a set of altered peptides based on the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus epitope gp33-41 sequence bound to mouse class I MHC D(b). pMHC binding, TCR-binding characteristics, CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity, and IFN-gamma production were measured for the peptides. We found affinity correlated well with both cytotoxicity and IFN-gamma production. In contrast, no correlation was observed between any kinetic parameter of TCR-pMHC interaction and cytotoxicity or IFN-gamma production. This study strongly argues for an affinity threshold model of T cell activation.

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