Origins of the cytolytic synapse

Nat Rev Immunol. 2016 Jul;16(7):421-32. doi: 10.1038/nri.2016.54. Epub 2016 Jun 6.


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) kill virus-infected and tumour cells with remarkable specificity. Upon recognition, CTLs form a cytolytic immune synapse with their target cell, and marked reorganization of both the actin and the microtubule cytoskeletons brings the centrosome up to the plasma membrane to the point of T cell receptor signalling. Secretory granules move towards the centrosome and are delivered to this focal point of secretion. Such centrosomal docking at the plasma membrane also occurs during ciliogenesis; indeed, striking similarities exist between the cytolytic synapse and the primary cilium that throw light on the possible origins of immune synapses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunological Synapses / immunology*
  • Immunological Synapses / ultrastructure
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / ultrastructure