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Experimental work has shown that T cells of the immune system rapidly and specifically respond to antigenic molecules presented on the surface of antigen-presenting-cells and are able to discriminate between potential stimuli based on the kinetic parameters of the T cell receptor-antigen bond. These antigenic molecules are presented among thousands of chemically similar endogenous peptides, raising the question of how T cells can reliably make a decision to respond to certain antigens but not others within minutes of encountering an antigen presenting cell. In this theoretical study, we investigate the role of localized rebinding between a T cell receptor and an antigen. We show that by allowing the signaling state of individual receptors to persist during brief unbinding events, T cells are able to discriminate antigens based on both their unbinding and rebinding rates. We demonstrate that T cell receptor coreceptors, but not receptor clustering, are important in promoting localized rebinding, and show that requiring rebinding for productive signaling reduces signals from a high concentration of endogenous pMHC. In developing our main results, we use a relatively simple model based on kinetic proofreading. However, we additionally show that all our results are recapitulated when we use a detailed T cell receptor signaling model. We discuss our results in the context of existing models and recent experimental work and propose new experiments to test our findings.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000578

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS Comput Biol

Publication Date

11/2009

Volume

5

Keywords

Animals, Antigens, Computer Simulation, Humans, Immunity, Innate, Models, Neurological, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, T-Lymphocytes