The αβT-cell receptor (TCR) is a two chain glycoprotein which is expressed on the surface of circulating T-cells. It is very similar in shape to an antibody.
The αβTCR recognises pMHC molecules, which are expressed on the surface of almost all nucleated cells in the body. If a cell is contaminated with a virus, or another type of infection, the interaction between the αβTCR and pMHC allows specific types of T-cells to activate and initiate immune responses to eliminate the infected cell. Thus, the interaction between the αβTCR and pMHC dictates the specificity of the T-cell and determines whether it initiates an immune response making this interaction the most critical event in T-cell immunity.
αβT-cells orchestrate immunity and protect against pathogens and cellular malignancies. T-cells recognise and clear diseased, or aberrant tissue, via the interaction αβTCR and pMHC. Understanding the molecular rules that govern TCR/pMHC interactions may allow for the development of artificial T-cells with a ‘supernatural’ ability to fight disease. We are currently developing a number of artificial T-cells which express enhanced affinity TCRs for the treatment of cancer, HIV, EBV and tuberculosis.