TCRs relay information about peptides embedded within MHC molecules (pMHC) to the ITAMs of the associated CD3γε, CD3δε, and CD3ζζ signaling modules. CD4 then recruits the Src kinase p56(Lck) (Lck) to the TCR-CD3 complex to phosphorylate the ITAMs, initiate intracellular signaling, and drive CD4(+) T cell fate decisions. Whereas the six ITAMs of CD3ζζ are key determinants of T cell development, activation, and the execution of effector functions, multiple models predict that CD4 recruits Lck proximal to the four ITAMs of the CD3 heterodimers. We tested these models by placing FRET probes at the cytosolic juxtamembrane regions of CD4 and the CD3 subunits to evaluate their relationship upon pMHC engagement in mouse cell lines. The data are consistent with a compact assembly in which CD4 is proximal to CD3δε, CD3ζζ resides behind the TCR, and CD3γε is offset from CD3δε. These results advance our understanding of the architecture of the TCR-CD3-pMHC-CD4 macrocomplex and point to regions of high CD4-Lck + ITAM concentrations therein. The findings thus have implications for TCR signaling, as phosphorylation of the CD3 ITAMs by CD4-associated Lck is important for CD4(+) T cell fate decisions.
T cells engineered to express a tumor-specific αβ T cell receptor (TCR) mediate anti-tumor immunity. However, mispairing of the therapeutic αβ chains with endogenous αβ chains reduces therapeutic TCR surface expression and generates self-reactive TCRs. We report a general strategy to prevent TCR mispairing: swapping constant domains between the α and β chains of a therapeutic TCR. When paired, domain-swapped (ds)TCRs assemble with CD3, express on the cell surface, and mediate antigen-specific T cell responses. By contrast, dsTCR chains mispaired with endogenous chains cannot properly assemble with CD3 or signal, preventing autoimmunity. We validate this approach in cell-based assays and in a mouse model of TCR gene transfer-induced graft-versus-host disease. We also validate a related approach whereby replacement of αβ TCR domains with corresponding γδ TCR domains yields a functional TCR that does not mispair. This work enables the design of safer TCR gene therapies for cancer immunotherapy.
How T cells become restricted to binding antigenic peptides within class I or class II major histocompatibility complex molecules (pMHCI or pMHCII, respectively) via clonotypic T-cell receptors (TCRs) remains debated. During development, if TCR-pMHC interactions exceed an affinity threshold, a signal is generated that positively selects the thymocyte to become a mature CD4(+) or CD8(+) T cell that can recognize foreign peptides within MHCII or MHCI, respectively. But whether TCRs possess an intrinsic, subthreshold specificity for MHC that facilitates sampling of the peptides within MHC during positive selection or T-cell activation is undefined. Here we asked if increasing the frequency of lymphocyte-specific protein tyrosine kinase (Lck)-associated CD4 molecules in T-cell hybridomas would allow for the detection of subthreshold TCR-MHC interactions. The reactivity of 10 distinct TCRs was assessed in response to selecting and nonselecting MHCII bearing cognate, null, or "shaved" peptides with alanine substitutions at known TCR contact residues: Three of the TCRs were selected on MHCII and have defined peptide specificity, two were selected on MHCI and have a known pMHC specificity, and five were generated in vitro without defined selecting or cognate pMHC. Our central finding is that IL-2 was made when each TCR interacted with selecting or nonselecting MHCII presenting shaved peptides. These responses were abrogated by anti-CD4 antibodies and mutagenesis of CD4. They were also inhibited by anti-MHC antibodies that block TCR-MHCII interactions. We interpret these data as functional evidence for TCR-intrinsic specificity for MHCII.
The T cell receptor (TCR) and associated CD3gammaepsilon, deltaepsilon, and zetazeta signaling dimers allow T cells to discriminate between different antigens and respond accordingly, but our knowledge of how these parts fit and work together is incomplete. In this study, we provide additional evidence that the CD3 heterodimers congregate on one side of the TCR in both the alphabeta and gammadeltaTCR-CD3 complexes. We also report that the other side of the alphabetaTCR mediates homotypic alphabetaTCR interactions and signaling. Specifically, an erythropoietin receptor-based dimerization assay was used to show that, upon complex assembly, the CD3epsilon chains of two CD3 heterodimers are arranged side-by-side in both the alphabeta and gammadeltaTCR-CD3 complexes. This system was also used to show that alphabetaTCRs can dimerize in the cell membrane and that mutating the unusual outer strands of the Calpha domain impairs this dimerization. Finally, we present data showing that, for CD4 T cells, the mutations that impair alphabetaTCR dimerization also alter ligand-induced calcium mobilization, TCR accumulation at the site of pMHC contact, and polarization toward the site of antigen contact. These data reveal a "functional-sidedness" to the alphabetaTCR constant region, with dimerization occurring on the side of the TCR opposite from where the CD3 heterodimers are located.
The T cell compartment of adaptive immunity provides vertebrates with the potential to survey for and respond specifically to an incredible diversity of antigens. The T cell repertoire must be carefully regulated to prevent unwanted responses to self. In the periphery, one important level of regulation is the action of costimulatory signals in concert with T cell antigen-receptor (TCR) signals to promote full T cell activation. The past few years have revealed that costimulation is quite complex, involving an integration of activating signals and inhibitory signals from CD28 and CTLA-4 molecules, respectively, with TCR signals to determine the outcome of a T cell's encounter with antigen. Newly emerging data suggest that inhibitory signals mediated by CTLA-4 not only can determine whether T cells become activated, but also can play a role in regulating the clonal representation in a polyclonal response. This review primarily focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of regulation by CTLA-4 and its manipulation as a strategy for tumor immunotherapy.