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T cell activation requires force generation.

  • Author(s): Hu, Kenneth H
  • Butte, Manish J
  • et al.

Triggering of the T cell receptor (TCR) integrates both binding kinetics and mechanical forces. To understand the contribution of the T cell cytoskeleton to these forces, we triggered T cells using a novel application of atomic force microscopy (AFM). We presented antigenic stimulation using the AFM cantilever while simultaneously imaging with optical microscopy and measuring forces on the cantilever. T cells respond forcefully to antigen after calcium flux. All forces and calcium responses were abrogated upon treatment with an F-actin inhibitor. When we emulated the forces of the T cell using the AFM cantilever, even these actin-inhibited T cells became activated. Purely mechanical stimulation was not sufficient; the exogenous forces had to couple through the TCR. These studies suggest a mechanical-chemical feedback loop in which TCR-triggered T cells generate forceful contacts with antigen-presenting cells to improve access to antigen.

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