T-cell antigen-receptor stoichiometry: Pre-clustering for sensitivity

Balbino Alarcón, Mahima Swamy, Hisse M. van Santen, Wolfgang W.A. Schamel (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


The T-cell antigen receptor (TCR·CD3) is a multi-subunit complex that is responsible for triggering an adaptive immune response. It shows high specificity and sensitivity, while having a low affinity for the ligand. Furthermore, T cells respond to antigen over a wide concentration range. The stoichiometry and architecture of TCR·CD3 in the membrane have been under intense scrutiny because they might be the key to explaining its paradoxical properties. This review highlights new evidence that TCR·CD3 is found on intact unstimulated T cells in a monovalent form (one ligand-binding site per receptor) as well as in several distinct multivalent forms. This is in contrast to the TCR·CD3 stoichiometries determined by several biochemical means; however, these data can be explained by the effects of different detergents on the integrity of the receptor. Here, we discuss a model in which the multivalent receptors are important for the detection of low concentrations of ligand and therefore confer sensitivity, whereas the co-expressed monovalent TCR·CD3s allow a wide dynamic range.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-495
Number of pages6
JournalEMBO Reports
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2006


  • Conformational change
  • Signal transduction
  • Stoichiometry
  • T-cell antigen receptor
  • Transmembrane interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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