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© 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim. T lymphocytes need to detect rare cognate foreign peptides among numerous foreign and self-peptides. This discrimination seems to be based on the kinetics of TCRs binding to their peptide-MHC (pMHC) ligands, but there is little direct information on the minimum time required for processing elementary signaling events and deciding to initiate activation. Here, we used interference reflection microscopy to study the early interaction between transfected human Jurkat T cells expressing the 1G4 TCR and surfaces coated with five different pMHC ligands of 1G4. The pMHC concentration required for inducing 50% maximal IFN-γ production by T cells, and 1G4-pMHC dissociation rates measured in soluble phase or on surface-bound molecules, displayed six- to sevenfold variation among pMHCs. When T cells were dropped onto pMHC-coated surfaces, rapid spreading occurred after a 2-min lag. The initial spreading rate measured during the first 45 s, and the contact area, were strongly dependent on the encountered TCR ligand. However, the lag duration did not significantly depend on encountered ligand. In addition, spreading appeared to be an all-or-none process, and the fraction of spreading cells was tightly correlated to the spreading rate and spreading area. Thus, T cells can discriminate between fairly similar TCR ligands within 2 min.

Original publication




Journal article


European Journal of Immunology

Publication Date





1635 - 1642