Cellular-level versus receptor-level response threshold hierarchies in T-cell activation

Hugo A van den Berg, Kristin Ladell, Kelly Miners, Bruno Laugel, Sian Llewellyn-Lacey, Mathew Clement, David K Cole, Emma Gostick, Linda Wooldridge, Andrew K Sewell, John S Bridgeman, David A Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Peptide-MHC (pMHC) ligand engagement by T-cell receptors (TCRs) elicits a variety of cellular responses, some of which require substantially more TCR-mediated stimulation than others. This threshold hierarchy could reside at the receptor level, where different response pathways branch off at different stages of the TCR/CD3 triggering cascade, or at the cellular level, where the cumulative TCR signal registered by the T-cell is compared to different threshold values. Alternatively, dual-level thresholds could exist. In this study, we show that the cellular hypothesis provides the most parsimonious explanation consistent with data obtained from an in-depth analysis of distinct functional responses elicited in a clonal T-cell system by a spectrum of biophysically defined altered peptide ligands across a range of concentrations. Further, we derive a mathematical model that describes how ligand density, affinity, and off-rate all affect signaling in distinct ways. However, under the kinetic regime prevailing in the experiments reported here, the TCR/pMHC class I (pMHCI) dissociation rate was found to be the main governing factor. The CD8 coreceptor modulated the TCR/pMHCI interaction and altered peptide ligand potency. Collectively, these findings elucidate the relationship between TCR/pMHCI kinetics and cellular function, thereby providing an integrated mechanistic understanding of T-cell response profiles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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