Background: Signaling through the TCR is crucial for the generation of different cellular responses including proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. A growing body of evidence indicates that differences in the magnitude and the duration of the signal are critical determinants in eliciting cellular responses.
Results: Here, we have analyzed signaling dynamics correlating with either unresponsiveness or proliferation induced upon TCR/CD28 ligation in primary human T cells. We used two widely employed methods to stimulate T cells in vitro, antibodies either cross-linked in solution (sAbs) or immobilized on microbeads (iAbs). A comparative analysis of the signaling properties of iAbs and sAbs revealed that, under proliferation-inducing conditions, feedback regulation is markedly different from that leading to an unresponsive state. In fact, upon iAbs stimulation TCR-mediated signaling is prolonged by a positive feedback loop involving Erk, whereas sAbs strongly activate inhibitory molecules that likely terminate signaling. We additionally found that, by enhancing the phosphorylation of Src family kinases under proliferation-inducing conditions, signaling and T-cell activation are terminated.
Conclusions: In summary, our analysis documents TCR signaling kinetics and feedback regulation under conditions of stimulation inducing either unresponsiveness or proliferation.