Research ArticleImmunology

Cytoskeletal adaptivity regulates T cell receptor signaling

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Sci. Signal.  07 Mar 2017:
Vol. 10, Issue 469, eaah3737
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aah3737

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Controlling how a T cell hugs

CD4+ T cells that have not encountered antigen are called naïve cells and require a stronger stimulus to become activated than do effector or memory CD4+ T cells, which have previously encountered antigen. Consequently, spurious activation of the naïve cells is prevented and effector cells can respond quickly to infection. Using atomic force microscopy and confocal imaging, Thauland et al. showed that naïve cells are stiffer than effector cells. Thus, the naïve cells made smaller and less involved contact regions with antigen-presenting cells. The decreased flexibility of the naïve cells resulted from diminished cofilin-mediated remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton. These findings show that mechanical properties of T cells govern their interactions with antigen-presenting cells and suggest that pharmacological modulation of T cell stiffness could change the threshold for activation.