Open Access Open Badges Research

TCR activation kinetics and feedback regulation in primary human T cells

Mateusz Poltorak, Boerge Arndt, Bhavani S Kowtharapu, Amarendra V Reddycherla, Vanessa Witte, Jonathan A Lindquist, Burkhart Schraven and Luca Simeoni*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Molecular and Clinical Immunology, Otto-von-Guericke University, Leipziger Str. 44, 39120, Magdeburg, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

Cell Communication and Signaling 2013, 11:4  doi:10.1186/1478-811X-11-4

Published: 14 January 2013



Signaling through the TCR is crucial for the generation of different cellular responses including proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. A growing body of evidence indicates that differences in the magnitude and the duration of the signal are critical determinants in eliciting cellular responses.


Here, we have analyzed signaling dynamics correlating with either unresponsiveness or proliferation induced upon TCR/CD28 ligation in primary human T cells. We used two widely employed methods to stimulate T cells in vitro, antibodies either cross-linked in solution (sAbs) or immobilized on microbeads (iAbs). A comparative analysis of the signaling properties of iAbs and sAbs revealed that, under proliferation-inducing conditions, feedback regulation is markedly different from that leading to an unresponsive state. In fact, upon iAbs stimulation TCR-mediated signaling is prolonged by a positive feedback loop involving Erk, whereas sAbs strongly activate inhibitory molecules that likely terminate signaling. We additionally found that, by enhancing the phosphorylation of Src family kinases under proliferation-inducing conditions, signaling and T-cell activation are terminated.


In summary, our analysis documents TCR signaling kinetics and feedback regulation under conditions of stimulation inducing either unresponsiveness or proliferation.

TCR-mediated signaling; Feedback regulation; Cell-fate specification; T-cell activation; Lck; Erk; Signaling dynamics; CD4 crosslinking