Mycobacterial cell wall lipids bind the conserved CD1 family of antigen-presenting molecules and activate T cells via their T cell receptors (TCRs). Sulfoglycolipids (SGLs) are uniquely synthesized by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but tools to study SGL-specific T cells in humans are lacking. We designed a novel hybrid synthesis of a naturally occurring SGL, generated CD1b tetramers loaded with natural or synthetic SGL analogs, and studied the molecular requirements for TCR binding and T cell activation. Two T cell lines derived using natural SGLs are activated by synthetic analogs independently of lipid chain length and hydroxylation, but differentially by saturation status. By contrast, two T cell lines derived using an unsaturated SGL synthetic analog were not activated by the natural antigen. Our data provide a bioequivalence hierarchy of synthetic SGL analogs and SGL-loaded CD1b tetramers. These reagents can now be applied to large-scale translational studies investigating the diagnostic potential of SGL-specific T cell responses or SGL-based vaccines.
Keywords: CD1; T cell receptor; T cells; antigen-presentation; human; lipid antigen; mycobacteria; tuberculosis.
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