Intercellular communication is crucial for collective regulation of cellular behaviors. While clustering T cells have been shown to mutually control the production of key communication signals, it is unclear whether they also jointly regulate their availability and degradation. Here we use newly developed reporter systems, bioinformatic analyses, protein structure modeling and genetic perturbations to assess this. We find that T cells utilize trogocytosis by competing antagonistic receptors to differentially control the abundance of immunoregulatory ligands. Specifically, ligands trogocytosed via CD28 are shuttled to the T cell surface, enabling them to co-stimulate neighboring T cells. In contrast, CTLA4-mediated trogocytosis targets ligands for degradation. Mechanistically, this fate separation is controlled by different acid-sensitivities of receptor-ligand interactions and by the receptor intracellular domains. The ability of CD28 and CTLA4 to confer different fates to trogocytosed ligands reveals an additional layer of collective regulation of cellular behaviors and promotes the robustness of population dynamics.
© 2022. The Author(s).