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Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are a population of T lymphocytes that play an important role in regulating immunity to infection and tumors by recognizing endogenous and exogenous CD1d-bound lipid molecules. Using soluble iNKT T cell receptor (TCR) molecules, we applied single molecule force spectroscopy for the investigation of the iNKT TCR affinity for human CD1d molecules loaded with glycolipids differing in the length of the phytosphingosine chain using either recombinant CD1d molecules or lipid-pulsed THP1 cells. In both settings, the dissociation of the iNKT TCR from human CD1d molecules loaded with the lipid containing the longer phytosphingosine chain required higher unbinding forces compared with the shorter phytosphingosine lipid. Our findings are discussed in the context of previous results obtained by surface plasmon resonance measurements. We present new insights into the energy landscape and the kinetic rate constants of the iNKT TCR/human CD1d-glycosphingolipid interaction and emphasize the unique potential of single molecule force spectroscopy on living cells.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





15973 - 15979


Antigens, CD1d, Cell Line, Glycosphingolipids, Humans, Killer Cells, Natural, Kinetics, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, Spectrum Analysis