Self-reactive human CD4 T cell clones form unusual immunological synapses.
Schubert DA., Gordo S., Sabatino JJ., Vardhana S., Gagnon E., Sethi DK., Seth NP., Choudhuri K., Reijonen H., Nepom GT., Evavold BD., Dustin ML., Wucherpfennig KW.
Recognition of self-peptide-MHC (pMHC) complexes by CD4 T cells plays an important role in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases. We analyzed formation of immunological synapses (IS) in self-reactive T cell clones from patients with multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. All self-reactive T cells contained a large number of phosphorylated T cell receptor (TCR) microclusters, indicative of active TCR signaling. However, they showed little or no visible pMHC accumulation or transport of TCR-pMHC complexes into a central supramolecular activation cluster (cSMAC). In contrast, influenza-specific T cells accumulated large quantities of pMHC complexes in microclusters and a cSMAC, even when presented with 100-fold lower pMHC densities. The self-reactive T cells also maintained a high degree of motility, again in sharp contrast to virus-specific T cells. 2D affinity measurements of three of these self-reactive T cell clones demonstrated a normal off-rate but a slow on-rate of TCR binding to pMHC. These unusual IS features may facilitate escape from negative selection by self-reactive T cells encountering very small amounts of self-antigen in the thymus. However, these same features may enable acquisition of effector functions by self-reactive T cells encountering large amounts of self-antigen in the target organ of the autoimmune disease.