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Biophys J. 2013 Nov 5;105(9):1987-96. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.09.025.

Dynamics of natural killer cell receptor revealed by quantitative analysis of photoswitchable protein.

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Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London, United Kingdom.


Natural Killer (NK) cell activation is dynamically regulated by numerous activating and inhibitory surface receptors that accumulate at the immune synapse. Quantitative analysis of receptor dynamics has been limited by methodologies that rely on indirect measurements such as fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. Here, we report an apparently novel approach to study how proteins traffic to and from the immune synapse using NK cell receptors tagged with the photoswitchable fluorescent protein tdEosFP, which can be irreversibly photoswitched from a green to red fluorescent state by ultraviolet light. Thus, after a localized switching event, the movement of the photoswitched molecules can be temporally and spatially resolved by monitoring fluorescence in two regions of interest. By comparing images with mathematical models, we evaluated the diffusion coefficient of the receptor KIR2DL1 (0.23 ± 0.06 μm(2) s(-1)) and assessed how synapse formation affects receptor dynamics. Our data conclude that the inhibitory NK cell receptor KIR2DL1 is continually trafficked into the synapse, and remains surprisingly stable there. Unexpectedly, however, in NK cells forming synapses with multiple target cells simultaneously, KIR2DL1 at one synapse can relocate to another synapse. Thus, our results reveal a previously undetected intersynaptic exchange of protein.

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