Immunological synapses are versatile structures enabling selective T cell polarization

Immunity. 2005 Feb;22(2):185-94. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2004.12.010.


Helper T cells discriminate among different antigen-presenting cells to provide their help in a selective fashion. The molecular mechanisms leading to this exquisite selectivity are still elusive. Here, we demonstrate that immunological synapses are dynamic and adaptable structures allowing T cells to communicate with multiple cells. We show that T cells can form simultaneous immunological synapses with cells presenting different levels of antigenic ligands but eventually polarize toward the strongest stimulus. Remarkably, living T cells form discrete foci of signal transduction of different intensities during the interaction with different antigen-presenting cells and rapidly relocate TCR and Golgi apparatus toward the cell providing the strongest stimulus. Our results illustrate that, although T cell activation requires sustained signaling, T cells are capable of rapid synapse remodeling and swift polarization responses. The combination of sustained signaling with preferential and rapid polarization provides a mechanism for the high sensitivity and selectivity of T cell responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / cytology
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • CD2 Antigens / immunology
  • CD2 Antigens / metabolism
  • CD58 Antigens / immunology
  • CD58 Antigens / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Junctions / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Substrate Specificity
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • CD2 Antigens
  • CD58 Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell