Isolation of a Structural Mechanism for Uncoupling T Cell Receptor Signaling from Peptide-MHC Binding.
ABSTRACT: TCR-signaling strength generally correlates with peptide-MHC binding affinity; however, exceptions exist. We find high-affinity, yet non-stimulatory, interactions occur with high frequency in the human T cell repertoire. Here, we studied human TCRs that are refractory to activation by pMHC ligands despite robust binding. Analysis of 3D affinity, 2D dwell time, and crystal structures of stimulatory versus non-stimulatory TCR-pMHC interactions failed to account for their different signaling outcomes. Using yeast pMHC display, we identified peptide agonists of a formerly non-responsive TCR. Single-molecule force measurements demonstrated the emergence of catch bonds in the activating TCR-pMHC interactions, correlating with exclusion of CD45 from the TCR-APC contact site. Molecular dynamics simulations of TCR-pMHC disengagement distinguished agonist from non-agonist ligands based on the acquisition of catch bonds within the TCR-pMHC interface. The isolation of catch bonds as a parameter mediating the coupling of TCR binding and signaling has important implications for TCR and antigen engineering for immunotherapy.
Project description:TCRs recognize cognate pMHCs to initiate T cell signaling and adaptive immunity. Mechanical force strengthens TCR-pMHC interactions to elicit agonist-specific catch bonds to trigger TCR signaling, but the underlying dynamic structural mechanism is unclear. We combined steered molecular dynamics (SMD) simulation, single-molecule biophysical approaches, and functional assays to collectively demonstrate that mechanical force induces conformational changes in pMHCs to enhance pre-existing contacts and activates new interactions at the TCR-pMHC binding interface to resist bond dissociation under force, resulting in TCR-pMHC catch bonds and T cell activation. Intriguingly, cancer-associated somatic mutations in HLA-A2 that may restrict these conformational changes suppressed TCR-pMHC catch bonds. Structural analysis also indicated that HLA polymorphism might alter the equilibrium of these conformational changes. Our findings not only reveal critical roles of force-induced conformational changes in pMHCs for activating TCR-pMHC catch bonds but also have implications for T cell-based immunotherapy.
Project description:The T cell antigen receptor (TCR) expressed on thymocytes interacts with self-peptide major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) ligands to signal apoptosis or survival. Here, we found that negative-selection ligands induced thymocytes to exert forces on the TCR and the co-receptor CD8 and formed cooperative TCR-pMHC-CD8 trimolecular 'catch bonds', whereas positive-selection ligands induced less sustained thymocyte forces on TCR and CD8 and formed shorter-lived, independent TCR-pMHC and pMHC-CD8 bimolecular 'slip bonds'. Catch bonds were not intrinsic to either the TCR-pMHC or the pMHC-CD8 arm of the trans (cross-junctional) heterodimer but resulted from coupling of the extracellular pMHC-CD8 interaction to the intracellular interaction of CD8 with TCR-CD3 via associated kinases to form a cis (lateral) heterodimer capable of inside-out signaling. We suggest that the coupled trans-cis heterodimeric interactions form a mechanotransduction loop that reinforces negative-selection signaling that is distinct from positive-selection signaling in the thymus.
Project description:TCR-pMHC interactions initiate adaptive immune responses, but the mechanism of how such interactions under force induce T cell signaling is unclear. We show that force prolongs lifetimes of single TCR-pMHC bonds for agonists (catch bonds) but shortens those for antagonists (slip bonds). Both magnitude and duration of force are important, as the highest Ca(2+) responses were induced by 10 pN via both pMHC catch bonds whose lifetime peaks at this force and anti-TCR slip bonds whose maximum lifetime occurs at 0 pN. High Ca(2+) levels require early and rapid accumulation of bond lifetimes, whereas short-lived bonds that slow early accumulation of lifetimes correspond to low Ca(2+) responses. Our data support a model in which force on the TCR induces signaling events depending on its magnitude, duration, frequency, and timing, such that agonists form catch bonds that trigger the T cell digitally, whereas antagonists form slip bonds that fail to activate.
Project description:The T cell receptor (TCR)-peptide-MHC (pMHC) interaction is the only antigen-specific interaction during T lymphocyte activation. Recent work suggests that formation of catch bonds is characteristic of activating TCR-pMHC interactions. However, whether this binding behavior is an intrinsic feature of the molecular bond, or a consequence of more complex multimolecular or cellular responses, remains unclear. We used a laminar flow chamber to measure, first, 2D TCR-pMHC dissociation kinetics of peptides of various activating potency in a cell-free system in the force range (6 to 15 pN) previously associated with catch-slip transitions and, second, 2D TCR-pMHC association kinetics, for which the method is well suited. We did not observe catch bonds in dissociation, and the off-rate measured in the 6- to 15-pN range correlated well with activation potency, suggesting that formation of catch bonds is not an intrinsic feature of the TCR-pMHC interaction. The association kinetics were better explained by a model with a minimal encounter duration rather than a standard on-rate constant, suggesting that membrane fluidity and dynamics may strongly influence bond formation.
Project description:Despite the clinical success of blocking its interactions, how PD-1 inhibits T-cell activation is incompletely understood, as exemplified by its potency far exceeding what might be predicted from its affinity for PD-1 ligand-1 (PD-L1). This may be partially attributed to PD-1's targeting the proximal signaling of the T-cell receptor (TCR) and co-stimulatory receptor CD28 via activating Src homology region 2 domain-containing phosphatases (SHPs). Here, we report PD-1 signaling regulates the initial TCR antigen recognition manifested in a smaller spreading area, fewer molecular bonds formed, and shorter bond lifetime of T cell interaction with peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) in the presence than absence of PD-L1 in a manner dependent on SHPs and Leukocyte C-terminal Src kinase. Our results identify a PD-1 inhibitory mechanism that disrupts the cooperative TCR-pMHC-CD8 trimolecular interaction, which prevents CD8 from augmenting antigen recognition, explaining PD-1's potent inhibitory function and its value as a target for clinical intervention.
Project description:Two contrasting theories have emerged that attempt to describe T-cell ligand potency, one based on the t(1/2) of the interaction and the other based on the equilibrium affinity (K(D)). Here, we have identified and studied an extensive set of T-cell receptor (TCR)-peptide-MHC (pMHC) interactions for CD4(+) cells that have differential K(D)s and kinetics of binding. Our data indicate that ligands with a short t(1/2) can be highly stimulatory if they have fast on-rates. Simple models suggest these fast kinetic ligands are stimulatory because the pMHCs bind and rebind the same TCR several times. Rebinding occurs when the TCR-pMHC on-rate outcompetes TCR-pMHC diffusion within the cell membrane, creating an aggregate t(1/2) (t(a)) that can be significantly longer than a single TCR-pMHC encounter. Accounting for t(a), ligand potency is K(D)-based when ligands have fast on-rates (k(on)) and t(1/2)-dependent when they have slow k(on). Thus, TCR-pMHC k(on) allow high-affinity short t(1/2) ligands to follow a kinetic proofreading model.
Project description:T cell receptors (TCRs) bind to peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) with low affinity (Kd ? ?M), which is generally assumed to facilitate cross-reactive TCR "scanning" of ligands. To understand the relationship between TCR/pMHC affinity and cross-reactivity, we sought to engineer an additional weak interaction, termed "velcro," between the TCR and pMHC to probe the specificities of TCRs at relatively low and high affinities. This additional interaction was generated through an eight-amino acid peptide library covalently linked to the N terminus of the MHC-bound peptide. Velcro was selected through an affinity-based isolation and was subsequently shown to enhance the cognate TCR/pMHC affinity in a peptide-dependent manner by ?10-fold. This was sufficient to convert a nonstimulatory ultra-low-affinity ligand into a stimulatory ligand. An X-ray crystallographic structure revealed how velcro interacts with the TCR. To probe TCR cross-reactivity, we screened TCRs against yeast-displayed pMHC libraries with and without velcro, and found that the peptide cross-reactivity profiles of low-affinity (Kd > 100 ?M) and high-affinity (Kd ? ?M) TCR/pMHC interactions are remarkably similar. The conservation of recognition of the TCR for pMHC across affinities reveals the nature of low-affinity ligands for which there are important biological functions and has implications for understanding the specificities of affinity-matured TCRs.
Project description:T cell activation by Ag is one of the key events in adaptive immunity. It is triggered by interactions of the TCR and coreceptor (CD8 or CD4) with antigenic peptides embedded in MHC (pMHC) molecules expressed on APCs. The mechanism of how signal is initiated remains unclear. In this article, we complement our two-dimensional kinetic analysis of TCR-pMHC-CD8 interaction with concurrent calcium imaging to examine how ligand engagement of TCR with and without the coengagement of CD8 initiates signaling. We found that accumulation of frequently applied forces on the TCR via agonist pMHC triggered calcium, which was further enhanced by CD8 cooperative binding. Prolonging the intermission between sequential force applications impaired calcium signals. Our data support a model where rapid accumulation of serial forces on TCR-pMHC-CD8 bonds triggers calcium in T cells.
Project description:T cells are critically important for host defense against infections. T cell activation is specific because signal initiation requires T cell receptor (TCR) recognition of foreign antigen peptides presented by major histocompatibility complexes (pMHC) on antigen presenting cells (APCs). Recent advances reveal that the TCR acts as a mechanoreceptor, but it remains unclear how pMHC/TCR engagement generates mechanical forces that are converted to intracellular signals. Here we propose a TCR Bending Mechanosignal (TBM) model, in which local bending of the T cell membrane on the nanometer scale allows sustained contact of relatively small pMHC/TCR complexes interspersed among large surface receptors and adhesion molecules on the opposing surfaces of T cells and APCs. Localized T cell membrane bending is suggested to increase accessibility of TCR signaling domains to phosphorylation, facilitate selective recognition of agonists that form catch bonds, and reduce noise signals associated with slip bonds.
Project description:The binding of T cell antigen receptors (TCRs) to specific complexes of peptide and major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) is typically of very low affinity, which necessitates the use of multimeric pMHC complexes to label T lymphocytes stably. We report here the development of pMHC complexes able to be crosslinked by ultraviolet irradiation; even as monomers, these efficiently and specifically stained cognate T cells. We also used this reagent to probe T cell activation and found that a covalently bound pMHC was more stimulatory than an agonist pMHC on lipid bilayers. This finding suggested that serial engagement of TCRs is dispensable for activation when a substantial fraction of TCRs are stably engaged. Finally, pMHC-bound TCRs were 'preferentially' transported into the central supramolecular activation cluster after activation, which suggested that ligand engagement enabled linkage of the TCR and its associated CD3 signaling molecules to the cytoskeleton.