T cell receptors (TCRs) are protein complexes formed by six different polypeptides. In most T cells, TCRs are composed of αβ subunits displaying immunoglobulin-like variable domains that recognize peptide antigens associated with major histocompatibility complex molecules expressed on the surface of antigen-presenting cells. TCRαβ subunits are associated with the CD3 complex formed by the γ, δ, ε, and ζ subunits, which are invariable and ensure signal transduction. Here, we review how the expression and function of TCR complexes are orchestrated by several fine-tuned cellular processes that encompass (a) synthesis of the subunits and their correct assembly and expression at the plasma membrane as a single functional complex, (b) TCR membrane localization and dynamics at the plasma membrane and in endosomal compartments, (c) TCR signal transduction leading to T cell activation, and (d) TCR degradation. These processes balance each other to ensure efficient T cell responses to a variety of antigenic stimuli while preventing autoimmunity.
Keywords: TCR-CD3; assembly; conformational change; endocytosis; recycling; signaling.