Emerging principles for T cell receptor recognition of antigen in cellular immunity.

K. C. Garcia, M. Degano, J. A. Speir, I. A. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The structural basis of antigen recognition in cellular immunity has been elucidated through the determination of crystal structures of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules bound to antigenic peptides, T cell receptors (TCR), CD8 and CD4 co-receptors and, most recently, TCRs in complex with peptide-MHC (pMHC). The mechanisms that generate the diversity of the immune response to invading microorganisms were first realized at a genetic level and are necessary in order to cope with the enormous number of potential antigens. This diversity is manifested in the protein products of the genes which code for the components of the TCR signalling complex. The structure of the TCR reveals both striking similarities with and fundamental differences from its functional counterpart, the antibody, in the humoral immune system. The conserved manner in which the TCR recognizes and interacts with its peptide-MHC ligand allows the TCR great latitude in its potential to form productive interactions with antigen-presenting cells that bear numerous ligands to which the TCR has not been previously exposed. This phenomenon of cross-, or alloreactivity arises from a combination of conserved structural features across all MHC molecules, both self and foreign, and some degree of molecular mimicry. Non-classical MHC ligands presenting either modified or specialized peptides, lipids, carbohydrates, or no ligand at all, are now thought to play increasingly important roles in cellular immunity. We review some of the recent structural results and our current state of knowledge about TCR structure, and how this relates to its function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-90
Number of pages16
JournalReviews in Immunogenetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Immunology

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