Staggered starts in the race to T cell activation

Trends Immunol. 2021 Nov;42(11):994-1008. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2021 Oct 11.


How T lymphocytes tune their responses to different strengths of stimulation is a fundamental question in immunology. Recent work using new optogenetic, single-cell genomic, and live-imaging approaches has revealed that stimulation strength controls the rate of individual cell responses within a population. Moreover, these responses have been found to use shared molecular programs, regardless of stimulation strength. However, additional data indicate that stimulation duration or cytokine feedback can impact later gene expression phenotypes of activated cells. In-depth molecular studies have suggested mechanisms by which stimulation strength might modulate the probability of T cell activation. This emerging model allows activating T cells to achieve a wide range of population responses through probabilistic control within individual cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Genome*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • T-Lymphocytes


  • Cytokines