Structural and biophysical determinants of αβ T-cell antigen recognition


  • JJM is supported by a Wales Office of Research and Development (WORD) Fellowship. DAP is a Medical Research Council (UK) Senior Clinical Fellow. DKC is a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow (RCDF).

Dr D. K. Cole, Institute of Infection and Immunity, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4XN, UK. Email:
Senior author: David K. Cole


The molecular rules that govern MHC restriction, and allow T-cells to differentiate between peptides derived from healthy cells and those from diseased cells, remain poorly understood. Here we provide an overview of the structural constraints that enable the T-cell receptor (TCR) to discriminate between self and non-self peptides, and summarize studies that have attempted to correlate the biophysical parameters of TCR/peptide–major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) binding with T-cell activation. We further review how the antigenic origin of peptide epitopes affects TCR binding parameters and the ‘quality’ of a T-cell response. Understanding the principles that govern pMHC recognition by T-cells will unlock pathways to the rational development of immunotherapeutic approaches for the treatment of infectious disease, cancer and autoimmunity.