MBL Scientists Recreate a T-Cell Receptor Signaling Pathway

TcellWOODS HOLE – The front line of the human immune system is made up of T-cells:  white blood cells that circulate in the body and scan for foreign invaders and infections.

If a T-cell surface receptor detects a threat during its surveillance, it relays a signal to the interior of the cell and activates it to attack.

Once this crucial “call of duty” is heard in the cell, how the signal is relayed through a series of proteins to activate the cell’s immune response is clarified in a new paper in Science by a team working at the Whitman Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.

By successfully re-creating a T-cell receptor signaling pathway independent of the cell itself, the scientists gained novel insights into how protein signaling works in a complex cellular process.

The study, supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, was performed by scientists from several institutions who convene at the MBL to work collaboratively.

Their study revealed a very important self-organization of the protein molecules in the signaling pathway, where they end up clustering to form dense structures in which the proteins are talking to one another.

The proteins molecules separated into structures by a process similar to phase separation of oil and water.

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