Co-Receptor CD8-Mediated Modulation of T-Cell Receptor Functional Sensitivity and Epitope Recognition Degeneracy

Barbara Szomolay, Tamsin Williams, Linda Wooldridge, Hugo Antonius van den Berg

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


The interaction between T-cell receptors (TCRs) and peptide epitopes is highly degenerate: a TCR is capable of interacting productively with a wide range of different peptide ligands, involving not only cross-reactivity proper (similar epitopes elicit strong responses), but also polyspecificity (ligands with distinct physicochemical properties are capable of interacting with the TCR). Degeneracy does not gainsay the fact that TCR recognition is fundamentally specific: for the vast majority of ligands, the functional sensitivity of a given TCR is virtually null whereas this TCR has an appreciable functional sensitivity only for a minute fraction of all possible ligands. Degeneracy can be described mathematically as the probability that the functional sensitivity, of a given TCR to a randomly selected ligand, exceeds a set value. Variation of this value generates a statistical distribution that characterizes TCR degeneracy. This distribution can be modeled on the basis of a Gaussian distribution for the TCR/ligand dissociation energy. The kinetics of the TCR and the MHCI molecule can be used to transform this underlying Gaussian distribution into the observed distribution of functional sensitivity values. In the present paper, the model is extended by accounting explicitly for the kinetics of the interaction between the co-receptor and the MHCI molecule. We show that T-cells can modulate the level of degeneracy by varying the density of co-receptors on the cell surface. This could allow for an analog of avidity maturation during incipient T-cell responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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