The versatility of the alphabeta T-cell antigen receptor

Mugdha Bhati, David K Cole, James McCluskey, Andrew K Sewell, Jamie Rossjohn

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15 Citations (Scopus)


The T-cell antigen receptor is a heterodimeric alphabeta protein (TCR) expressed on the surface of T-lymphocytes, with each chain of the TCR comprising three complementarity-determining regions (CDRs) that collectively form the antigen-binding site. Unlike antibodies, which are closely related proteins that recognize intact protein antigens, TCRs classically bind, via their CDR loops, to peptides (p) that are presented by molecules of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). This TCR-pMHC interaction is crucially important in cell-mediated immunity, with the specificity in the cellular immune response being attributable to MHC polymorphism, an extensive TCR repertoire and a variable peptide cargo. The ensuing structural and biophysical studies within the TCR-pMHC axis have been highly informative in understanding the fundamental events that underpin protective immunity and dysfunctional T-cell responses that occur during autoimmunity. In addition, TCRs can recognize the CD1 family, a family of MHC-related molecules that instead of presenting peptides are ideally suited to bind lipid-based antigens. Structural studies within the CD1-lipid antigen system are beginning to inform us how lipid antigens are specifically presented by CD1, and how such CD1-lipid antigen complexes are recognized by the TCR. Moreover, it has recently been shown that certain TCRs can bind to vitamin B based metabolites that are bound to an MHC-like molecule termed MR1. Thus, TCRs can recognize peptides, lipids, and small molecule metabolites, and here we review the basic principles underpinning this versatile and fascinating receptor recognition system that is vital to a host s survival.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260 - 272
Number of pages13
JournalProtein Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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