A T-cell receptor escape channel allows broad T-cell response to CD1b and membrane phospholipids

Adam Shahine, Peter Reinink, Josephine F. Reijneveld, Stephanie Gras, Mira Holzheimer, Tan Yun Cheng, Adriaan J. Minnaard, John D. Altman, Steffi Lenz, Jacques Prandi, Joanna Kubler-Kielb, D. Branch Moody, Jamie Rossjohn, Ildiko Van Rhijn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


CD1 proteins are expressed on dendritic cells, where they display lipid antigens to T-cell receptors (TCRs). Here we describe T-cell autoreactivity towards ubiquitous human membrane phospholipids presented by CD1b. These T-cells discriminate between two major types of lipids, sphingolipids and phospholipids, but were broadly cross-reactive towards diverse phospholipids including phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylinositol and phosphatidylethanolamine. The crystal structure of a representative TCR bound to CD1b-phosphatidylcholine provides a molecular mechanism for this promiscuous recognition. We observe a lateral escape channel in the TCR, which shunted phospholipid head groups sideways along the CD1b-TCR interface, without contacting the TCR. Instead the TCR recognition site involved the neck region phosphate that is common to all major self-phospholipids but absent in sphingolipids. Whereas prior studies have focused on foreign lipids or rare self-lipids, we define a new molecular mechanism of promiscuous recognition of common self-phospholipids including those that are known targets in human autoimmune disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2019


  • immune tolerance
  • immunology
  • structural biology
  • T-cell receptor

Cite this