T-cell activation


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T-cell activation

Immune system

Introduction to the immune system

Introduction to the immune system



Innate immune system

Innate immune system

Complement system

Adaptive immune system

T-cell development

B-cell development

MHC class I and MHC class II molecules

T-cell activation

B-cell activation and differentiation

Cell-mediated immunity of CD4 cells

Cell-mediated immunity of natural killer and CD8 cells

Antibody classes

Somatic hypermutation and affinity maturation

VDJ rearrangement

Contracting the immune response and peripheral tolerance

B- and T-cell memory

Anergy, exhaustion, and clonal deletion


Hypersensitivity reactions

Type I hypersensitivity

Type II hypersensitivity

Type III hypersensitivity

Type IV hypersensitivity

High Yield Notes

18 pages

External Links


Content Reviewers

Rishi Desai, MD, MPH


Evan Debevec-McKenney

The immune response is highly specific for each invader, and that’s because the cells of the adaptive immune response have receptors that can differentiate friendly bacteria from potentially deadly pathogens from their unique parts - called antigens.

The key cells of the adaptive immune response are the lymphocytes - the B and T cells.

T cells develop in the thymus where they undergo a process called VDJ rearrangement to generate a massively diverse set of T cell receptors, or TCRs.

There are two types of T cells which are identified based on molecules they express on their surface.

Helper T cells express CD4 on their surface, and their main function is to support other immune cells.

Cytotoxic T cells express CD8 on their surface, and their main function is to kill infected or cancerous cells.

A T cell starts out naive and then gets primed or activated - at which point it differentiates into an effector T cell and proliferates. Activation of both helper and cytotoxic T cells requires two signals.

After that the cytokines present around the cell determine the type of T cell it will become. The first signal occurs when a T cell receptor binds to an antigen.

Now, a T cell receptor can only recognize antigens that are peptides, rather than carbohydrates or lipids.

And the T cell receptor also needs to have a peptide presented on a major histocompatibility complex, also known as MHC.

MHC molecules act like serving platters present the antigen to T cells.There are two types of MHC molecules that work with the two types of T cells.


T-cell activation is the process by which an antigen-presenting cell (APC) activates a T-cell. It is an important part of the immune system, as it helps the body to fight off infections and other foreign invaders. During T-cell activation, the APC presents antigen to the T-cell receptor, which then triggers a cascade of signals inside the T-cell, leading to the activation and proliferation of the T-cell. The activation of the T-cell leads to the production of cytokines and other immunological molecules, which help to target and destroy the invading pathogen.


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