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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Oct 28;105(43):16671-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808081105. Epub 2008 Oct 22.

How the thymus designs antigen-specific and self-tolerant T cell receptor sequences.

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Departments of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


T lymphocytes (T cells) orchestrate adaptive immune responses that clear pathogens from infected hosts. T cells recognize short peptides (p) derived from antigenic proteins bound to protein products of the MHC genes. Recognition occurs when T cell receptor (TCR) proteins expressed on T cells bind sufficiently strongly to antigen-derived pMHC complexes on the surface of antigen-presenting cells. A diverse repertoire of self-pMHC-tolerant TCR sequences is shaped during development of T cells in the thymus by processes called positive and negative selection. Combining computational models and analysis of experimental data, we parsed the contributions of positive and negative selection to the design of TCR sequences that recognize antigenic peptides with specificity, yet also exhibit cross-reactivity. A dominant role for negative selection in mediating antigen specificity of mature T cells and a molecular mechanism for TCR recognition of antigen are described.

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