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BACKGROUND: The T-lymphocyte cell-surface molecule, CD2, was the first heterophilic cell-adhesion molecule to be discovered and has become an important paradigm for understanding the structural basis of cell adhesion. Interaction of CD2 with its ligands. CD58 (in humans) and CD48 (in mice and rats), contributes to antigen recognition by T cells. CD2, CD48 and CD58 are closely related members of the immunoglobulin superfamily and their extracellular regions are predicted to have very similar structures. The three-dimensional crystal structure of this region of CD2 has been determined, revealing two immunoglobulin domains with the ligand-binding site situated on an exposed beta sheet in the membrane-distal domain. This GFCC'C" beta sheet is also involved in a homophilic 'head-to-head' interaction in the CD2 crystal lattice, which has been proposed to be a model for the interactions of CD2 with its ligands. RESULTS: We show that the CD2-binding site on rat CD48 lies on the equivalent beta-sheet of its membrane-distal immunoglobulin domain. By making complementary mutations, we have shown that two charged residues in the CD48 ligand-binding site interact directly with two oppositely charged residues in CD2's ligand-binding site. These results indicate that the amino-terminal immunoglobulin domains of CD2 and CD48 bind each other in the same orientation as the CD2-CD2 crystal lattice interaction, strongly supporting the suggestion that CD2 interacts head-to-head with its ligand. Modelling CD48 onto the CD2 structure reveals that the CD2-CD48 complex spans approximately the same distance (134 A) as predicted for the complex between the T-cell receptor and the peptide-bound major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule. CONCLUSIONS: Our results, together with recent structural studies of CD2, provide the first indication of the specific topology of a cell-adhesion molecule complex. The similar dimensions predicted for the CD2-CD48 complex and the complex between the T-cell receptor and the peptide-bound MHC molecule suggest that one of the functions of CD2 may be to position the plasma membranes of the T cell and the antigen-presenting (or target) cell at the optimal distance for the low-affinity interaction between the T-cell receptor and the peptide-bound MHC molecule.


Journal article


Curr Biol

Publication Date





74 - 84


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Antigens, CD, Binding Sites, CD2 Antigens, CD48 Antigen, Computer Graphics, Crystallography, X-Ray, Humans, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutagenesis, Protein Conformation, Protein Structure, Secondary, Rats, Recombinant Proteins, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, T-Lymphocytes