Clathrin controls bidirectional communication between T cells and antigen presenting cells

Bioessays. 2024 Apr;46(4):e2300230. doi: 10.1002/bies.202300230. Epub 2024 Feb 27.


In circulation, T cells are spherical with selectin enriched dynamic microvilli protruding from the surface. Following extravasation, these microvilli serve another role, continuously surveying their environment for antigen in the form of peptide-MHC (pMHC) expressed on the surface of antigen presenting cells (APCs). Upon recognition of their cognate pMHC, the microvilli are initially stabilized and then flatten into F-actin dependent microclusters as the T cell spreads over the APC. Within 1-5 min, clathrin is recruited by the ESCRT-0 component Hrs to mediate release of T cell receptor (TCR) loaded vesicles directly from the plasma membrane by clathrin and ESCRT-mediated ectocytosis (CEME). After 5-10 min, Hrs is displaced by the endocytic clathrin adaptor epsin-1 to induce clathrin-mediated trans-endocytosis (CMTE) of TCR-pMHC conjugates. Here we discuss some of the functional properties of the clathrin machinery which enables it to control these topologically opposite modes of membrane transfer at the immunological synapse, and how this might be regulated during T cell activation.

Keywords: ESCRT; T cell activation; T cell receptor; clathrin; ectocytosis; endocytosis; epsin‐1.

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / metabolism
  • Clathrin* / metabolism
  • Communication
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport / metabolism
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • T-Lymphocytes*


  • Clathrin
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport