CD1 proteins present microbial lipids to T cells. Germline-encoded mycolyl lipid-reactive (GEM) T cells with conserved αβ T cell receptors (TCRs) recognize CD1b presenting mycobacterial mycolates. As the molecular basis underpinning TCR recognition of CD1b remains unknown, here we determine the structure of a GEM TCR bound to CD1b presenting glucose-6-O-monomycolate (GMM). The GEM TCR docks centrally above CD1b, whereby the conserved TCR α-chain extensively contacts CD1b and GMM. Through mutagenesis and study of T cells from tuberculosis patients, we identify a consensus CD1b footprint of TCRs present among GEM T cells. Using both the TCR α- and β-chains as tweezers to surround and grip the glucose moiety of GMM, GEM TCRs create a highly specific mechanism for recognizing this mycobacterial glycolipid.
- antigen presentation
- antigen-presenting cells
- T-cell receptor
- x-ray crystallography
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