Adaptive immunity relies on T lymphocytes that use αβ T cell receptors (TCRs) to discriminate among peptides presented by major histocompatibility complex molecules (pMHCs). Identifying pMHCs capable of inducing robust T cell responses will not only enable a deeper understanding of the mechanisms governing immune responses but could also have broad applications in diagnosis and treatment. T cell recognition of sparse antigenic pMHCs in vivo relies on biomechanical forces. However, in vitro screening methods test potential pMHCs without force and often at high (nonphysiological) pMHC densities and thus fail to predict potent agonists in vivo. Here, we present a technology termed BATTLES (biomechanically assisted T cell triggering for large-scale exogenous-pMHC screening) that uses biomechanical force to initiate T cell triggering for peptides and cells in parallel. BATTLES displays candidate pMHCs on spectrally encoded beads composed of a thermo-responsive polymer capable of applying shear loads to T cells, facilitating exploration of the force- and sequence-dependent landscape of T cell responses. BATTLES can be used to explore basic T cell mechanobiology and T cell-based immunotherapies.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.