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Immunity. 1996 Jul;5(1):53-61.

A TCR binds to antagonist ligands with lower affinities and faster dissociation rates than to agonists.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305-5402, USA.


T lymphocyte activation is mediated by the interaction of specific TCR with antigenic peptides bound to MHC molecules. Single amino acid substitutions are often capable of changing the effect of a peptide from stimulatory to antagonistic. Using surface plasmon resonance, we have analyzed the interaction between a complex consisting of variants of the MCC peptide bound to a mouse class II MHC (Ek) and a specific TCR. Using both an improved direct binding method as well as a novel inhibition assay, we show that the affinities of three different antagonist peptide-Ek complexes are approximately 10-50 times lower than that of the wildtype MCC-Ek complex for the TCR, largely due to an increased off-rate. These results suggest that the biological effects of peptide antagonists and partial agonists may be largely based on kinetic parameters.

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