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T cell receptors are dynamic protein molecules, study found

By Vicki Mozo

The role of the immune system in keeping a healthy, functional body is without a doubt essential. It protects the body by performing multifarious defense mechanisms to ward off pathogens and diseases. One of the ways that the immune system carries out this vital function is the production and release of T cells.

T cells are white blood cells that are involved in cell-mediated immunity. Perhaps, we can regard T cells as cellular ''guards'' that keep watch over impending pathogenic activity. T cells differ from other white blood cells (such as B cells and NK cells) through T cell receptors located on their cell surface. These receptors act as the guard's ''portable flashlights'' that recognize the presence of ''intruding'' antigens. Of course, immunological recognition of antigen is not as simple as that.

Previous research depicted T cell receptors as static components on the surface of T cells. They are anchored and exposed on the cell surface to recognize antigens, especially those bound to major histocompatibility complex molecules of an antigen-presenting cell.

Recently, a research team from the University of Notre Dame headed by Brian Baker reported that the T cell receptors are not actually static molecules on the surface of T cells but are molecules capable of movement and dynamicity. Baker further claims that the dynamic motion of these molecules is crucial because it determines their efficacy in antigen recognition.

According to their research findings, the T cell receptors are capable of movement and they can also adopt multiple structures.1 In fact, a T cell receptor moves and searches for a final configuration that is efficiently compatible with the target antigen. If the T cell receptor fails to find a well-matched configuration, it would not be able to attach successfully to the antigen.

These findings of Baker include the factor of motion when determining the efficacy of the T cell in order to carry out its immune function. The dynamicity and movement capacity of T cell receptors (as well as the tendency of antigens to cause dynamic motion) should be understood well if we hope to have effective health tools in the form of vaccines or treatments that give a boost to the immune system, especially its capability to prevent infection, cancer, and tissue rejection.


1University of Notre Dame (2010, January 28). Proteins' dynamic motion important in body's immune response. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 1, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.comĀ¬ /releases/2010/01/100121150750.htm

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