The interaction of nominal antigen with T cell antigen receptors. I. Specific binding of multivalent nominal antigen to cytolytic T cell clones

R. F. Siliciano, A. D. Keegan, R. Z. Dintzis, H. S. Shin

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67 Scopus citations


In this report, we describe an experiment strategy for analyzing the interaction of nominal antigen with antigen-specific T cell clones. Our approach was based on the notion that low affinity interactions between nominal antigen and T cell antigen receptors might be detected by using a highly multivalent form of the antigen in which a large number of identical, appropriately spaced epitopes are attached to a polymer backbone. Antigens of this kind should be capable of multivalent binding to receptors on the T cell, resulting in a marked enhancement of the overall avidity of the interaction. To examine this possibility, we established a series of murine cytolytic T cell (T(c)) clones specific for the readily detectable hapten fluorescein isothiocyanate (FL). These clones lysed FL-conjugated target cells in an antigen-specific fashion and also showed specificity for target cell MHC gene products. The interaction of these clones with the nominal antigen FL was assessed by flow cytometry, using a series of water-soluble FL-conjugated polymers varying in polymer backbone and FL isomer. High m.w. (600 to 2000 Kd) polymers of acrylamide, dextran, or Ficoll conjugated with 300 to 800 FL groups/molecule bound specifically to anti-FL T(c) clones. There was little binding to syngeneic spleen cells, thymocytes, noncytolytic T cell clones, or T cell clones specific for other haptens such as NIP. Polymer concentrations in the 1 to 10 μg/ml range produced readily detectable binding within minutes at 20°C, and the binding approached plateau levels at polymer concentrations of between 100 and 300 μg/ml. Studies with closely related FL isomers showed that the same antigen fine specificity was operative in both lysis of FL-conjugated target cells and in binding of FL-conjugated polymers. The functional significance of the observed binding was assessed by measuring the effect of FL-conjugated polymers on lymphokine secretion by the clones. High m.w. FL-conjugated polymers caused a dose-dependent increase in the production of macrophage activation factor (MAF) by anti-FL T(c) clones, but did not increase MAF production by an NIP-specific clone. In contrast, concanavalin A induced MAF production by both FL-specific and NIP-specific clones. Thus, the observed binding is both specific and functionally significant. These results suggest that soluble nominal antigen, in an appropriately multivalent form, can bind specifically to antigen receptors on T(c) clones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)906-914
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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