The central event in the cellular immune response to invading microorganisms is the specific recognition of foreign peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules by the αβ T cell receptor (TCR). The x-ray structure of the complete extracellular fragment of a glycosylated αβ TCR was determined at 2.5 angstroms, and its orientation bound to a class I MHC-peptide (pMHC) complex was elucidated from crystals of the TCR-pMHC complex. The TCR resembles an antibody in the variable Vα and Vβ domains but deviates in the constant Cα domain and in the interdomain pairing of Cα with Cβ. Four of seven possible asparagine-linked glycosylation sites have ordered carbohydrate moieties, one of which lies in the Cα-Cβ interface. The TCR combining site is relatively flat except for a deep hydrophobic cavity between the hypervariable CDR3s (complementarity-determining regions) of the α and β chains. The 2C TCR covers the class I MHC H-2Kb binding groove so that the Vα CDRs 1 and 2 are positioned over the amino-terminal region of the bound dEV8 peptide, the Vβ chain CDRs 1 and 2 are over the carboxyl-terminal region of the peptide, and the Va and Vβ CDR3s straddle the peptide between the helices around the central position of the peptide.
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