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T cells are a category of lymphocytes that differ from other lymphocytes because of the unique T cell receptor (TCR) present on the cell surface. Together with co-receptors (CD4 for helper T cells and CD8 for cytotoxic T cells), the TCR enables T cells to detect and react to peptide antigens, which are pathogens digested by antigen presenting cells (APCs) and displayed on major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules.
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Upon TCR engagement, Src kinases lymphocyte-specific protein tyrosine kinase (Lck) and Fyn phosphorylate immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs (ITAMs) of the TCR/CD3 complex. ZAP70 (zeta-chain-associated protein kinase 70) is recruited to amplify the response.
Through protein tyrosine phosphorylation, several pathways can be triggered, such as the ERK, JNK, NF-κB, and NFAT pathways. Stimulation of the TCR will launch positive and negative cascades that impact T cell activation, proliferation, differentiation, cytokine production, and apoptosis.
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