Force-dependent transition in the T-cell receptor ?-subunit allosterically regulates peptide discrimination and pMHC bond lifetime.
ABSTRACT: The ?? T-cell receptor (TCR) on each T lymphocyte mediates exquisite specificity for a particular foreign peptide bound to a major histocompatibility complex molecule (pMHC) displayed on the surface of altered cells. This recognition stimulates protection in the mammalian host against intracellular pathogens, including viruses, and involves piconewton forces that accompany pMHC ligation. Physical forces are generated by T-lymphocyte movement during immune surveillance as well as by cytoskeletal rearrangements at the immunological synapse following cessation of cell migration. The mechanistic explanation for how TCRs distinguish between foreign and self-peptides bound to a given MHC molecule is unclear: peptide residues themselves comprise few of the TCR contacts on the pMHC, and pathogen-derived peptides are scant among myriad self-peptides bound to the same MHC class arrayed on infected cells. Using optical tweezers and DNA tether spacer technology that permit piconewton force application and nanometer scale precision, we have determined how bioforces relate to self versus nonself discrimination. Single-molecule analyses involving isolated ??-heterodimers as well as complete TCR complexes on T lymphocytes reveal that the FG loop in the ?-subunit constant domain allosterically controls both the variable domain module's catch bond lifetime and peptide discrimination via force-driven conformational transition. In contrast to integrins, the TCR interrogates its ligand via a strong force-loaded state with release through a weakened, extended state. Our work defines a key element of TCR mechanotransduction, explaining why the FG loop structure evolved for adaptive immunity in ?? but not ??TCRs or immunoglobulins.
Project description:The pre-T cell receptor (pre-TCR) is a pT?-? heterodimer functioning in early ?? T cell development. Although once thought to be ligand-autonomous, recent studies show that pre-TCRs participate in thymic repertoire formation through recognition of peptides bound to major histocompatibility molecules (pMHC). Using optical tweezers, we probe pre-TCR bonding with pMHC at the single molecule level. Like the ??TCR, the pre-TCR is a mechanosensor undergoing force-based structural transitions that dynamically enhance bond lifetimes and exploiting allosteric control regulated via the C? FG loop region. The pre-TCR structural transitions exhibit greater reversibility than TCR?? and ordered force-bond lifetime curves. Higher piconewton force requires binding through both complementarity determining region loops and hydrophobic V? patch apposition. This patch functions in the pre-TCR as a surrogate V? domain, fostering ligand promiscuity to favor development of ? chains with self-reactivity but is occluded by ? subunit replacement of pT? upon ??TCR formation. At the double negative 3 thymocyte stage where the pre-TCR is first expressed, pre-TCR interaction with self-pMHC ligands imparts growth and survival advantages as revealed in thymic stromal cultures, imprinting fundamental self-reactivity in the T cell repertoire. Collectively, our data imply the existence of sequential mechanosensor ??TCR repertoire tuning via the pre-TCR.
Project description:?? T-cell receptors (TCRs) engage antigens using complementarity-determining region (CDR) loops that are either germ line-encoded (CDR1 and CDR2) or somatically rearranged (CDR3). TCR ligands compose a presentation platform (major histocompatibility complex (MHC)) and a variable antigenic component consisting of a short "foreign" peptide. The sequence of events when the TCR engages its peptide-MHC (pMHC) ligand remains unclear. Some studies suggest that the germ line elements of the TCR engage the MHC prior to peptide scanning, but this order of binding is difficult to reconcile with some TCR-pMHC structures. Here, we used TCRs that exhibited enhanced pMHC binding as a result of mutations in either CDR2 and/or CDR3 loops, that bound to the MHC or peptide, respectively, to dissect the roles of these loops in stabilizing TCR-pMHC interactions. Our data show that TCR-peptide interactions play a strongly dominant energetic role providing a binding mode that is both temporally and energetically complementary with a system requiring positive selection by self-pMHC in the thymus and rapid recognition of non-self-pMHC in the periphery.
Project description:T lymphocytes need to detect rare cognate foreign peptides among numerous foreign and self-peptides. This discrimination seems to be based on the kinetics of TCRs binding to their peptide-MHC (pMHC) ligands, but there is little direct information on the minimum time required for processing elementary signaling events and deciding to initiate activation. Here, we used interference reflection microscopy to study the early interaction between transfected human Jurkat T cells expressing the 1G4 TCR and surfaces coated with five different pMHC ligands of 1G4. The pMHC concentration required for inducing 50% maximal IFN-? production by T cells, and 1G4-pMHC dissociation rates measured in soluble phase or on surface-bound molecules, displayed six- to sevenfold variation among pMHCs. When T cells were dropped onto pMHC-coated surfaces, rapid spreading occurred after a 2-min lag. The initial spreading rate measured during the first 45 s, and the contact area, were strongly dependent on the encountered TCR ligand. However, the lag duration did not significantly depend on encountered ligand. In addition, spreading appeared to be an all-or-none process, and the fraction of spreading cells was tightly correlated to the spreading rate and spreading area. Thus, T cells can discriminate between fairly similar TCR ligands within 2 min.
Project description:Self versus non-self discrimination is at the core of T-lymphocyte recognition. To this end, ?? T-cell receptors (TCRs) ligate 'foreign' peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I or class II molecules (pMHC) arrayed on the surface of antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Since the discovery of TCRs approximately 30 years ago, considerable structural and functional data have detailed the molecular basis of their extraordinary ligand specificity and sensitivity in mediating adaptive T-cell immunity. This review focuses on the structural biology of the Fab-like TCR?? clonotypic heterodimer and its unique features in conjunction with those of the associated CD3?? and CD3?? heterodimeric molecules, which, along with CD3?? homodimer, comprise the TCR complex in a stoichiometry of 1:1:1:1. The basis of optimized TCR?? docking geometry on the pMHC linked to TCR mechanotransduction and required for T-cell signaling as well as CD4 and CD8 co-receptor function is detailed. A model of the TCR ectodomain complex including its connecting peptides suggests how force generated during T-cell immune surveillance and at the immunological synapse results in dynamic TCR quaternary change involving its heterodimeric components. Potential insights from the structural biology relevant to immunity and immunosuppression are revealed.
Project description:T lymphocytes use surface [Formula: see text] T-cell receptors (TCRs) to recognize peptides bound to MHC molecules (pMHCs) on antigen-presenting cells (APCs). How the exquisite specificity of high-avidity T cells is achieved is unknown but essential, given the paucity of foreign pMHC ligands relative to the ubiquitous self-pMHC array on an APC. Using optical traps, we determine physicochemical triggering thresholds based on load and force direction. Strikingly, chemical thresholds in the absence of external load require orders of magnitude higher pMHC numbers than observed physiologically. In contrast, force applied in the shear direction ([Formula: see text]10 pN per TCR molecule) triggers T-cell Ca2+ flux with as few as two pMHC molecules at the interacting surface interface with rapid positional relaxation associated with similarly directed motor-dependent transport via [Formula: see text]8-nm steps, behaviors inconsistent with serial engagement during initial TCR triggering. These synergistic directional forces generated during cell motility are essential for adaptive T-cell immunity against infectious pathogens and cancers.
Project description:Adaptive cellular immunity requires accurate self- vs. nonself-discrimination to protect against infections and tumorous transformations while at the same time excluding autoimmunity. This vital capability is programmed in the thymus through selection of ??T-cell receptors (??TCRs) recognizing peptides bound to MHC molecules (pMHC). Here, we show that the pre-TCR (preTCR), a pT?-? heterodimer appearing before ??TCR expression, directs a previously unappreciated initial phase of repertoire selection. Contrasting with the ligand-independent model of preTCR function, we reveal through NMR and bioforce-probe analyses that the ?-subunit binds pMHC using V? complementarity-determining regions as well as an exposed hydrophobic V? patch characteristic of the preTCR. Force-regulated single bonds akin to those of ??TCRs but with more promiscuous ligand specificity trigger calcium flux. Thus, thymic development involves sequential ?- and then, ??-repertoire tuning, whereby preTCR interactions with self pMHC modulate early thymocyte expansion, with implications for ?-selection, immunodominant peptide recognition, and germ line-encoded MHC interaction.
Project description:T cell receptors (TCRs) on T cells recognize peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) molecules on the surface of antigen presenting cells and this interaction determines the T cell immune response. Due to negative selection, naturally occurring TCRs bind self (tumor) peptides with low affinity and have a much higher affinity for foreign antigens. This complicates isolation of naturally occurring, high affinity TCRs that mediate more effective tumor rejection for therapeutic purposes. An attractive approach to resolve this issue is to engineer high affinity TCRs in vitro using phage, yeast or mammalian TCR display systems. A caveat of these systems is that they rely on a large library by random mutagenesis due to the lack of knowledge regarding the specific interactions between the TCR and pMHC. We have focused on the mammalian retroviral display system because it uniquely allows for direct comparison of TCR-pMHC-binding properties with T-cell activation outcomes. Through an alanine-scanning approach, we are able to quickly map the key amino acid residues directly involved in TCR-pMHC interactions thereby significantly reducing the library size. Using this method, we demonstrate that for a self-antigen-specific human TCR (R6C12) the key residues for pMHC binding are located in the CDR3? region. This information was used as a basis for designing an efficacious TCR CDR3? library that allowed for selection of TCRs with higher avidity than the wild-type as evaluated through binding and activation experiments. This is a direct approach to target specific TCR residues in TCR library design to efficiently engineer high avidity TCRs that may potentially be used to enhance adoptive immunotherapy treatments.
Project description:T cell receptors (TCRs) are immune proteins that specifically bind to antigenic molecules, which are often foreign peptides presented by major histocompatibility complex proteins (pMHCs), playing a key role in the cellular immune response. To advance our understanding and modeling of this dynamic immunological event, we assembled a protein-protein docking benchmark consisting of 20 structures of crystallized TCR/pMHC complexes for which unbound structures exist for both TCR and pMHC. We used our benchmark to compare predictive performance using several flexible and rigid backbone TCR/pMHC docking protocols. Our flexible TCR docking algorithm, TCRFlexDock, improved predictive success over the fixed backbone protocol, leading to near-native predictions for 80% of the TCR/pMHC cases among the top 10 models, and 100% of the cases in the top 30 models. We then applied TCRFlexDock to predict the two distinct docking modes recently described for a single TCR bound to two different antigens, and tested several protein modeling scoring functions for prediction of TCR/pMHC binding affinities. This algorithm and benchmark should enable future efforts to predict, and design of uncharacterized TCR/pMHC complexes.
Project description:T-cell receptors (TCR) have considerable potential as therapeutics and antibody-like reagents to monitor disease progression and vaccine efficacy. Whereas antibodies recognize only secreted and surface-bound proteins, TCRs recognize otherwise inaccessible disease-associated intracellular proteins when they are presented as processed peptides bound to major histocompatibility complexes (pMHC). TCRs have been primarily explored for cancer therapy applications but could also target infectious diseases such as cytomegalovirus (CMV). However, TCRs are more difficult to express and engineer than antibodies, and advanced methods are needed to enable their widespread use. Here, we engineered the human CMV-specific TCR RA14 for high-affinity and robust soluble expression. To achieve this, we adapted our previously reported mammalian display system to present TCR extracellular domains and used this to screen CDR3 libraries for clones with increased pMHC affinity. After three rounds of selection, characterized clones retained peptide specificity and activation when expressed on the surface of human Jurkat T cells. We obtained high yields of soluble, monomeric protein by fusing the TCR extracellular domains to antibody hinge and Fc constant regions, adding a stabilizing disulfide bond between the constant domains and disrupting predicted glycosylation sites. One variant exhibited 50 nm affinity for its cognate pMHC, as measured by surface plasmon resonance, and specifically stained cells presenting this pMHC. Our work has identified a human TCR with high affinity for the immunodominant CMV peptide and offers a new strategy to rapidly engineer soluble TCRs for biomedical applications.
Project description:?? T cell receptor (TCR) recognition of foreign peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) molecules on the surface of antigen presenting cells is a key event in the initiation of adaptive cellular immunity. In vitro, high-affinity binding and/or long-lived interactions between TCRs and pMHC correlate with high-potency T cell activation. However, less is known about the influence of TCR/pMHC interaction parameters on T cell responses in vivo. We studied the influence of TCR/pMHC binding characteristics on in vivo T cell immunity by tracking CD4(+) T cell activation, effector, and memory responses to immunization with peptides exhibiting a range of TCR/pMHC half-lives and in vitro T cell activation potencies. Contrary to predictions from in vitro studies, we found that optimal in vivo T cell responses occur to ligands with intermediate TCR/pMHC half-lives. The diminished in vivo responses we observed to the ligand exhibiting the longest TCR/pMHC half-life were associated with attenuation of intracellular signaling, expansion, and function over a broad range of time points. Our results reveal a level of control over T cell activation in vivo not recapitulated in in vitro assays and highlight the importance of considering in vivo efficacy of TCR ligands as part of vaccine design.