Structure of the T-cell antigen receptor: evidence for two CD3 epsilon subunits in the T-cell receptor-CD3 complex

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Sep;87(18):7220-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.87.18.7220.


The T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) consists of heterodimeric glycoproteins (TCR alpha beta or gamma delta) that demonstrate homology with immunoglobulins. Noncovalently associated with the alpha beta (or gamma delta) heterodimer are at least five nonvariant proteins (CD3-gamma, -delta, -epsilon, -zeta, and -eta), which together comprise the TCR-CD3 complex. The stoichiometry of the antigen receptor has been assumed to be either alpha beta gamma delta epsilon zeta zeta or alpha beta gamma delta epsilon zeta eta. In this paper we provide several lines of evidence that support the notion that the mature TCR-CD3 complex on the cell surface contains two CD3-epsilon polypeptide chains. Transfection of two murine T cell-T cell hybridomas with the human DNA encoding CD3-epsilon protein demonstrated that both murine and human CD3-epsilon chains were present within the same TCR-CD3 complex. Analysis of thymocytes isolated from transgenic mice that expressed high copy numbers of the human CD3-epsilon gene showed that the heterologous human CD3-epsilon subunits were coexpressed with murine CD3-epsilon in the same TCR-CD3 complex. Since CD3-epsilon was shown to form disulfide-linked homodimers both in human and murine T cells, the two CD3-epsilon subunits present in the TCR-CD3 complex were in direct contact with one another. The presence of two CD3-epsilon polypeptide chains in close proximity to one another in the TCR-CD3 complex may have important implications for its assembly and its signal transduction mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD / genetics*
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / analysis
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / genetics*
  • CD3 Complex
  • Cell Membrane / immunology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Humans
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / analysis
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / analysis
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Transfection


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD3 Complex
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell