Newly generated T cell receptor microclusters initiate and sustain T cell activation by recruitment of Zap70 and SLP-76

Nat Immunol. 2005 Dec;6(12):1253-62. doi: 10.1038/ni1272. Epub 2005 Nov 6.


T cell receptor (TCR) activation and signaling precede immunological synapse formation and are sustained for hours after initiation. However, the precise physical sites of the initial and sustained TCR signaling are not definitively known. We report here that T cell activation was initiated and sustained in TCR-containing microclusters generated at the initial contact sites and the periphery of the mature immunological synapse. Microclusters containing TCRs, the tyrosine kinase Zap70 and the adaptor molecule SLP-76 were continuously generated at the periphery. TCR microclusters migrated toward the central supramolecular cluster, whereas Zap70 and SLP-76 dissociated from these microclusters before the microclusters coalesced with the TCR-rich central supramolecular cluster. Tyrosine phosphorylation and calcium influx were induced as microclusters formed at the initial contact sites. Inhibition of signaling prevented recruitment of Zap70 into the microclusters. These results indicated that TCR-rich microclusters initiate and sustain TCR signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Lymphocyte Activation / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / physiology*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • ZAP-70 Protein-Tyrosine Kinase / genetics
  • ZAP-70 Protein-Tyrosine Kinase / metabolism*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • SLP-76 signal Transducing adaptor proteins
  • ZAP-70 Protein-Tyrosine Kinase
  • Zap70 protein, mouse