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The major defense system against microbial pathogens in vertebrates is the adaptive immune response and represents an effective mechanism in cancer surveillance. T cells represent an essential component of this complex system. They can recognize myriads of antigens as short peptides (p) originated from the intracellular degradation of foreign proteins presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins. The clonotypic T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) is specialized in recognizing pMHC and triggering T cells immune response. It is still unclear how TCR engagement to pMHC is translated into the intracellular signal that initiates T-cell immune response. Some work has suggested the possibility that pMHC binding induces in the TCR conformational changes transmitted to its companion CD3 subunits that govern signaling. The conformational changes would promote phosphorylation of the CD3 complex ζ chain that initiates signal propagation intracellularly. Here, we used all-atom molecular dynamics simulations (MDs) of 500 ns to analyze the conformational behavior of three TCRs (1G4, ILA1 and ILA1α1β1) interacting with the same MHC class I (HLA-A*02:01) bound to different peptides, and modelled in the presence of a lipid bilayer. Our data suggest a correlation between the conformations explored by the β-chain constant regions and the T-cell response experimentally determined. In particular, independently by the TCR type involved in the interaction, the TCR activation seems to be linked to a specific zone of the conformational space explored by the β-chain constant region. Moreover, TCR ligation restricts the conformational space the MHC class I groove.

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T cell antigen receptor., biophysics, molecular dynamics, protein-membrane