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T cells use their T-cell receptors (TCRs) to scan other cells for antigenic peptides presented by MHC molecules (pMHC). If a TCR encounters a pMHC, it can trigger a signalling pathway that could lead to the activation of the T cell and the initiation of an immune response. It is currently not clear how the binding of pMHC to the TCR initiates signalling within the T cell. One hypothesis is that conformational changes in the TCR lead to further downstream signalling. Here we investigate four different TCRs in their free state as well as in their pMHC bound state using large scale molecular simulations totalling 26 000 ns. We find that the dynamical features within TCRs differ significantly between unbound TCR and TCR/pMHC simulations. However, apart from expected results such as reduced solvent accessibility and flexibility of the interface residues, these features are not conserved among different TCR types. The presence of a pMHC alone is not sufficient to cause cross-TCR-conserved dynamical features within a TCR. Our results argue against models of TCR triggering involving conserved allosteric conformational changes.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS Comput Biol

Publication Date