Cytoskeletal polarization of T cells is regulated by an immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motif-dependent mechanism

Bente Lowin-Kropf, Virginia Smith Shapiro, Arthur Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

199 Scopus citations


Binding of a T cell to an appropriate antigen-presenting cell (APC) induces the rapid reorientation of the T cell cytoskeleton and secretory apparatus towards the cell-cell contact site in a T cell antigen receptor (TCR) and peptide/major histocompatibility complex-dependent process. Such T cell polarization directs the delivery of cytokines and cytotoxic mediators towards the APC and contributes to the highly selective and specific action of effector T cells. To study the signaling pathways that regulate cytoskeletal rearrangements in T lymphocytes, we set up a conjugate formation assay using Jurkat T cells as effectors and cell-sized latex beads coated with various antibodies as artificial APCs. Here, we report that beads coated with antibodies specific for the TCR-CD3 complex were sufficient to induce T cell polarization towards the bead attachment site, as judged by reorientation of the microtubule-organizing center (MTOC) and localized actin polymerization. Thus, these cytoskeletal changes did not depend on activation of additional coreceptors. Moreover, single subunits of the TCR complex, namely TCR-ζ and CD3ε were equally effective in inducing cytoskeletal polarization. However, mutagenesis of the immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs (ITAMs), present three times in TCR-ζ and once in CD3ε, revealed that the induction of cytoskeletal rearrangements required the presence of at least one intact ITAM. In agreement with this result, lack of functional Lck, the protein tyrosine kinase responsible for ITAM phosphorylation, abolished both MTOC reorientation and polarized actin polymerization. Both inhibitor and transient overexpression studies demonstrated that MTOC reorientation could occur in the absence of Ras activation. Our results suggest that APC-induced T cell polarization is a TCR-mediated event that is coupled to the TCR by the same signaling motif as TCR-induced gene activation, but diverges in its distal signaling requirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-871
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 23 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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