The T cell receptor

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Science  20 Nov 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4830, pp. 1073-1079
DOI: 10.1126/science.3317824


The primary structure of T cell receptor proteins and genes is well understood. Immunologists are now trying to understand the properties of these interesting molecules. Evidence suggests that T cell alpha beta receptors recognize a complex of an antigen-derived peptide bound to one of the cell-surface products of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes. It is likely that alpha beta receptors and MHC proteins have coevolved to have some affinity for each other. During T cell development in the thymus, cells bearing self-reactive receptors are deleted by the mechanisms of tolerance, and cells are preferentially allowed to mature if they bear receptors that will be able to recognize antigen plus self-MHC after they have become full-fledged T cells. Some explanations for these phenomena have been tested, but no satisfactory theory can yet be proposed to account for them.