TCR Signaling: Mechanisms of Initiation and Propagation

Trends Biochem Sci. 2018 Feb;43(2):108-123. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2017.11.008. Epub 2017 Dec 18.


The mechanisms by which a T cell detects antigen using its T cell antigen receptor (TCR) are crucial to our understanding of immunity and the harnessing of T cells therapeutically. A hallmark of the T cell response is the ability of T cells to quantitatively respond to antigenic ligands derived from pathogens while remaining inert to similar ligands derived from host tissues. Recent studies have revealed exciting properties of the TCR and the behaviors of its signaling effectors that are used to detect and discriminate between antigens. Here we highlight these recent findings, focusing on the proximal TCR signaling molecules Zap70, Lck, and LAT, to provide mechanistic models and insights into the exquisite sensitivity and specificity of the TCR.

Keywords: T cell; TCR; antigen; kinase; phosphatase; signaling.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell