T cell antigen recognition requires T cell antigen receptors (TCRs) engaging MHC-embedded antigenic peptides (pMHCs) within the contact region of a T cell with its conjugated antigen-presenting cell. Despite micromolar TCR:pMHC affinities, T cells respond to even a single antigenic pMHC, and higher-order TCRs have been postulated to maintain high antigen sensitivity and trigger signaling. We interrogated the stoichiometry of TCRs and their associated CD3 subunits on the surface of living T cells through single-molecule brightness and single-molecule coincidence analysis, photon-antibunching-based fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and Förster resonance energy transfer measurements. We found exclusively monomeric TCR-CD3 complexes driving the recognition of antigenic pMHCs, which underscores the exceptional capacity of single TCR-CD3 complexes to elicit robust intracellular signaling.
- Antigen Presentation/immunology
- CD3 Complex/chemistry
- Lymphocyte Activation/immunology
- Mice, Transgenic
- Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell/chemistry