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Blood. 2011 Jul 14;118(2):319-29. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-12-326736. Epub 2011 May 23.

Human T cells expressing affinity-matured TCR display accelerated responses but fail to recognize low density of MHC-peptide antigen.

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Department of Immunology, Division of Infection and Immunity, University College London, Royal Free Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


We have tested whether affinity-matured TCRs that retain peptide specificity improve the ability of primary human CD8(+) T cells to mount antigen-specific responses. We found that TCR affinity correlated with the speed of T-cell responses. High affinity TCR-antigen interactions rapidly initiated T-cell responses, but low affinity TCR/antigen interactions required longer time periods to elicit the same responses. Within the "natural" affinity range, increased TCR-to-antigen affinity correlated with improved ability of T cells to recognize low concentration of antigen. However, affinity-matured TCR with 700-fold enhanced affinity for MHC-to-antigen required 100-fold higher antigen-density to initiate T-cell responses than did wild-type TCR. Using modified peptides to reduce the affinity of TCR-to-antigen interaction, we demonstrate that affinity-matured TCRs are not defective, being superior to wild-type TCR in recognizing low concentration of modified peptides. These data indicate that enhancing TCR affinity can accelerate the speed of T-cell activation and reduce the ability to recognize low density of MHC-to-peptide antigen. We predict that future studies of the human T-cell repertoire will reveal 2 types of low avidity T cells: fast and slow responders, with high-affinity and low-affinity TCR, respectively.

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