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Immunity. 2008 Sep 19;29(3):414-22. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2008.06.014. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

The balance between T cell receptor signaling and degradation at the center of the immunological synapse is determined by antigen quality.

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Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


The role of the center of the immunological synapse (the central supramolecular activation cluster or cSMAC) is controversial. One model suggests that the role of the cSMAC depends on antigen quality and can both enhance signaling and receptor downregulation, whereas a second model proposes that the sole function of the cSMAC is to downregulate signaling. An important distinction between the models is whether signaling occurs in the cSMAC. Here, we demonstrate that at early time points, signaling occurs outside the cSMAC, but occurs in the cSMAC at later time points. Additionally, we show that cSMAC formation enhances the stimulatory potency of weak agonists for the TCR. Combined with previous studies showing that cSMAC formation decreases the signaling by strong agonists, our data support a model proposing that signaling and receptor degradation both occur in the cSMAC and that the balance between signaling and degradation in the synapse is determined by antigen quality.

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