• Antigen-presenting cells;
  • Dendritic cells;
  • Electron microscopy;
  • LFA-1;
  • T cells


The structure of immunological synapses formed between murine naive T cells and mature dendritic cells has been subjected to a quantitative analysis. Immunofluorescence images of synapses formed in the absence of antigen show a diffuse synaptic accumulation of CD3 and LFA-1. In electron microscopy, these antigen-free synapses present a number of tight appositions (cleft size ∼15 nm), all along the synapse. These tight appositions cover a significantly larger surface fraction of antigen-dependent synapses. In immunofluorescence, antigen-dependent synapses show multiple patches of CD3 and LFA-1 with a variable overlap. A similar distribution is observed for PKCθ and talin. A concentric organization characteristic of prototypical synapses is rarely observed, even when dendritic cells are paralyzed by cytoskeletal poisons. In T–DC synapses, the interaction surface is composed of several tens of submicronic contact spots, with no large-scale segregation of CD3 and LFA-1. As a comparison, in T–B synapses, a central cluster of CD3 is frequently observed by immunofluorescence, and electron microscopy reveals a central tight apposition. Our data show that it is inappropriate to consider the concentric structure as a “mature synapse” and multifocal structures as immature.