Challenging The Tritope Model of T cell Receptor Structure–Function Relationships with Classical Data on ‘Super’ and ‘Allo-MHC’ Antigens


Correspondence to: M. Cohn, Conceptual Immunology Group, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA. E-mail:


The response of the immune system to allo-MHC-encoded antigens and Mls ‘superantigens’ has been experimentally analysed in detail, but the data have not been coupled to a theoretical framework. It should therefore be instructive to see how well the newly proposed Tritope Model of TCR structure–function relationships deals with the signalling interactions between the TCR and the above antigens. We will pay heed to William Bateson's admonition, ‘treasure the exceptions’, by showing how a meaningful theory interrogates the data with the same validity that the data interrogate the theory. The concordances, as well as the contradictions, with the Tritope Model are a test of its heuristic value.