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Nat Immunol. 2007 Oct;8(10):1105-13. Epub 2007 Sep 9.

Germline-encoded recognition of diverse glycolipids by natural killer T cells.

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Department of Immunology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, Colorado, 80206, USA.


Natural killer T cells expressing 'invariant' T cell receptor alpha-chains (TCRalpha chains) containing variable (V) and joining (J) region V(alpha)14-J(alpha)18 (V(alpha)14i) rearrangements recognize both endogenous and microbial glycolipids in the context of CD1d. How cells expressing an invariant TCRalpha chain and a restricted set of TCRbeta chains recognize structurally diverse antigens is not clear. Here we show that a V(alpha)14i TCR recognized many alpha-linked glycolipids by means of a 'hot-spot' of germline-encoded amino acids in complementarity-determining regions 3alpha, 1alpha and 2beta. This hot-spot did not shift during the recognition of structurally distinct antigens, suggesting that the V(alpha)14i TCR functions as a pattern-recognition receptor, conferring on natural killer T cells the ability to sense and respond in an innate way to pathogens displaying antigenic alpha-linked glycolipids.

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