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Title: TCR signalling in response to affinity stimulation
Author: Bruger, Annika Målin
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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T cells are an essential part of the adaptive immune system and protect the body from intracellular infections. The specificity with which αßTCR-bearing T cells recognize cognate antigen presented on MHC molecules is paramount to maintaining the balance between mounting effector functions against pathogens and establishing peripheral tolerance to self. The mechanism by which T cells translate qualitative differences in TCR:pMHC binding to sensitive proximal signalling events which ultimately result in specific Tcell effector responses to infected cells but not to self is mostly unknown. To address how T cell signalling responds to qualitative differences in TCR triggering by pMHC, I established a system of stimulating T cells bearing the 1G4 TCR specifically in vitro with a panel of four NY-ESO-1156-165 peptide variant MHC tetramers. Single amino acid substitutions to the NY-ESO-1156-165 peptide conferred a maximum 35-fold difference in the monomeric affinity for the 1G4 TCR. The system allows the highly controlled investigation of very rapid TCR proximal signalling events simultaneously and quantitatively using flow cytometry. Stimulations with pMHC tetramers showed rapid sensitive sequential signalling responses which were able to confer ligand discrimination. Very early signalling events such as CD3ζ phosphorylation showed analogue responses to the different affinity pMHC tetramers. Later signalling events including phospho-ERK showed a distinct on/off switch-like response. The amplitude of the very early analogue signalling responses determined the extent of later digital ERK signals. This indicates that a certain analogue signalling threshold must be passed to result in T cell activation. The thymocyte protein Themis has been shown proximal TCR signalling to modulate thymocyte selection thresholds. Its deletion results in profound defects in positive thymocyte selection. Themis locates to the LAT signalosome of the TCR signalling cascade via Grb2, yet its molecular function is unknown. Employing the system I established, I demonstrate that Themis-k/d cells show increased levels of CD3z-chain phosphorylation, phospho-ERK signalling and signal-induced apoptosis which was independent of the ERK signal. This shows that Themis is a global attenuator of proximal TCR signalling. We are currently investigating possible associations of Themis to proteins phosphastases such as SHP-1 which could attenuate TCR proximal protein tyrosine signalling events.
Supervisor: Acuto, Oreste Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Life Sciences ; Biochemistry ; Immunochemistry ; T cells ; T cell receptor ; pMHC tetramers ; affinity signalling ; Themis