Antigen decoding by T lymphocytes: from synapses to fate determination

Nat Immunol. 2001 Jun;2(6):487-92. doi: 10.1038/88678.


Naïve T lymphocytes sense foreign antigens by establishing contacts with dendritic cells (DCs). At the immunological synapse between the T cell and a DC, T cell receptors (TCRs) are serially engaged and triggered by specific ligands. The amount and duration of TCR triggering and the efficiency of signal amplification determine T cell commitment to proliferation and differentiation. The nature and availability of DCs bearing antigen and costimulatory molecules shape the T cell response, giving rise to distinct functional outputs such as effector and memory T cell generation or T cell tolerance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Synapses / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell