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Immunity. 1996 Jun;4(6):565-71.

Evidence that a single peptide-MHC complex on a target cell can elicit a cytolytic T cell response.

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Center for Cancer Research, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


Using a chemically homogeneous radiolabeled peptide of high specific activity (125I-QLSPYPFDL, 3.5 x 10(18) cpm per mole) we show that at a peptide concentration (5 pM) causing half-maximal lysis of target cells by a cytolytic T lymphocyte (CTL) clone that recognizes the peptide in association with Ld, a class I MHC protein, only 3 peptide molecules on average are bound by Ld per target cell. From the distribution of Ld on the target cells, we suggest that a single peptide-MHC complex per target cell can trigger activation of the T cell cytolytic response.

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