Background: T-cells are activated by engagement of their clonotypic cell surface receptors with peptide complexes of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins, in a poorly understood process that involves receptor clustering on the membrane surface. Few tools are available to study the molecular mechanisms responsible for initiation of activation processes in T-cells. Results: A topologically diverse set of oligomers of the human MHC protein HLA-DR1, varying in size from dimers to tetramers, was produced by varying the location of an introduced cysteine residue and the number and spacing of sulfhydryl-reactive groups carried on novel and commercially available cross-linking reagents. Fluorescent probes incorporated into the cross-linking reagents facilitated measurement of oligomer binding to the T-cell surface. Oligomeric MHC-peptide complexes, including a variety of MHC dimers, trimers and tetramers, bound to T-cells and initiated T-cell activation processes in an antigen-specific manner. Conclusion: T-cell receptor dimerization on the cell surface is sufficient to initiate intracellular signaling processes, as a variety of MHC-peptide dimers differing in intramolecular spacing and orientation were each able to trigger early T-cell activation events. The relative binding affinities within a homologous series of MHC-peptide oligomers suggest that T-cell receptors may rearrange in the plane of the membrane concurrent with oligomer binding.
Cochran, J. R., & Stern, L. J. (2000). A diverse set of oligomeric class II MHC-peptide complexes for probing T-cell receptor interactions. Chemistry and Biology, 7(9), 683–696. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1074-5521(00)00019-3