The onset of an adaptive immune response requires the activation of T and B lymphocytes by antigen-presenting cells, through a specialized form of intercellular communication, known as the immunological synapse (IS). In B lymphocytes the IS promotes efficient recognition and acquisition of membrane-bound Ags, while in T cells, it modulates the T cell response upon exposure to peptide-major histocompatibility complexes. In this review, we highlight the similarities that determine B and T cell activation, focusing on immune receptor downstream signaling events that lead to synapse formation. We stress the notion that polarization of T and B lymphocytes characterized by global changes in cytoskeleton and membrane trafficking modulates synapse structure and function, thus determining lymphocyte effector functions and fate.
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