When T-cells probe their environment for antigens, the bond between the T-cell receptor (TCR) and the peptide-loaded major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is put under tension, thereby influencing the antigen discrimination process. Yet, the quantification of such forces in the context of T-cell signaling is technically challenging. Common approaches such as traction force microscopy (TFM) employ a global readout of the force fields, e.g. by measuring the displacements of hydrogel-embedded marker beads. Recent data, however, indicated that T-cells exert tensile forces locally via TCR-enriched microvilli while scanning the surface of antigen-presenting cells. Here, we developed a traction force microscopy platform, which allows for quantifying the pulls exerted via T-cell microvilli, in both tangential and normal directions, during T-cell activation. For this, we immobilized specific T-cell activating antibodies directly on the marker beads used to read out the hydrogel deformation. Microvilli targeted the functionalized beads, as confirmed by superresolution microscopy of the local actin organization. Moreover, we found that cellular components, such as actin, TCR and CD45 reorganize upon interaction with the beads, such that actin forms a vortex-like ring structure around the beads and TCR is enriched at the bead surface, whereas, CD45 is excluded from bead-microvilli contacts.
Significance statement During the antigen recognition process, T-cells explore and probe their environment via microvilli, which exert local pushes and pulls at the surface of the antigen presenting cell. It is currently believed that these forces influence or even enable the antigen recognition process. Here, we describe the development of a platform, which allows us to quantify the magnitude and direction of traction forces exerted locally by T cell microvilli. Simultaneous Ca2+ imaging was used to link the measured forces to the overall T cell activation status. Superresolution microscopy resolved the contact sites of bead-microvilli contact at the nanoscale: cells contacted beads via actin vortex-like structures, which excluded the phosphatase CD45 from the contacts.
### Competing Interest Statement
The authors have declared no competing interest.
|Translated title of the contribution
|Functionalized bead assay to measure 3-dimensional traction forces during T-cell activation
|Published - 24 Sept 2020