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T cell receptors (TCR) identify target cells presenting a ligand consisting of a major histocompatibility complex molecule (MHC) and an antigenic peptide. A considerable amount of evidence indicates that the TCR contacts both the peptide and the MHC components of the ligand. In fully differentiated T cells the interaction between the peptide and the TCR makes the critical contribution to eliciting a cellular response. However, during the positive selection of thymocytes the contribution of peptide relative to MHC is less well established. Indeed it has been suggested that the critical interaction for positive selection is between the TCR and the MHC molecule and that peptides can be viewed as either allowing or obstructing this contact. This predicts that a given TCR is capable of engaging multiple MHC/peptide complexes. In this study a system is described which detects simply engagement of the TCR by MHC/peptide complexes rather than the functional outcome of such interactions. Using this approach the extent to which peptides can influence contacts between the TCR and the MHC molecule has been examined. The results show that the TCR does in fact engage a wide range of ligands in an MHC-restricted but largely peptide-independent manner, suggesting that only a few peptides are able to prevent the TCR from contacting the MHC molecule.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Immunol

Publication Date





879 - 885


Animals, Binding, Competitive, Cell Degranulation, Epitopes, HLA-A2 Antigen, Humans, Leukemia, Basophilic, Acute, Membrane Proteins, Peptides, Rats, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, Recombinant Fusion Proteins, Recombinant Proteins, Transfection, Tumor Cells, Cultured