PerspectiveImmunology

Too Fast to Die

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Sci. Signal.  15 Oct 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 297, pp. pe33
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004753

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Abstract

Signals generated by the T cell receptor (TCR) result in the death or survival of developing thymocytes (T cell precursors), depending on the affinity of the TCR for peptide ligands bound to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) that are encountered in the thymus. A new study by Ellen Robey’s group in this issue of Science Signaling presents a systematic evaluation of signaling and motility changes in thymocytes that encounter ligands of different affinities in the thymic environment. In contrast to previous in vitro studies, the authors found that low-affinity ligands stimulated infrequent transient mobilization of intracellular Ca2+, whereas high-affinity ligands triggered sustained Ca2+ signaling and periods of migratory arrest. For ligands of intermediate affinity, changes in thymocyte motility, rather than in Ca2+ signaling patterns, provided the best correlation with functional outcomes. These findings suggest that transient signaling events in the absence of strong stop signals are required for thymocyte survival and functional maturation in the thymus.

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