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T cell antigen recognition is accompanied by cytoskeletal polarization towards the APC and large-scale redistribution of cell surface molecules into 'supramolecular activation clusters' (SMACs), forming an organized contact interface termed the 'immunological synapse' (IS). Molecules are arranged in the IS in a micrometer scale bull's eye pattern with a central accumulation of TCR/peptide-MHC (the cSMAC) surrounded by a peripheral ring of adhesion molecules (the pSMAC). We propose that segregation of cell surface molecules on a much smaller scale initiates TCR triggering, which drives the formation of the IS by active transport processes. IS formation may function as a checkpoint for full T cell activation, integrating information on the presence and quality of TCR ligands and the nature and activation state of the APC.

Original publication




Journal article


Semin Immunol

Publication Date





5 - 21


Animals, Antigen-Presenting Cells, Antigens, Surface, Cytoskeletal Proteins, Humans, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, Signal Transduction, T-Lymphocytes