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Immunity. 1996 May;4(5):421-30.

Polarity of T cell shape, motility, and sensitivity to antigen.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California, Irvine 92717, USA.


T cell activation requires contact with APCs. We used optical techniques to demonstrate T cell polarity on the basis of shape, motility, and localized sensitivity to antigen. An intracellular Ca2+ clamp showed that T cell shape and motility are extremely sensitive to changes in [Ca2+]i (Kd = 200 nM), with immobilization and rounding occurring via a calcineurin-independent pathway. Ca2+ dependent immobilization prolonged T cell contact with the antigen-presenting B cell; buffering the [Ca2+]i signal prevented the formation of stable cell pairs. Optical tweezers revealed spatial T cell sensitivity to antigen by controlling placement on the T cell surface of either B cells or alpha-CD3 MAb-coated beads. T cells were 4-fold more sensitive to contact made at the leading edge of the T cell compared with the tail. We conclude that motile T cells are polarized antigen sensors that respond physically to [Ca2+]i signals to stabilize their interaction with APCs.

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