Programmed self-assembly of peptide–major histocompatibility complex for antigen-specific immune modulation

Chih Ping Mao, Shiwen Peng, Andrew Yang, Liangmei He, Ya Chea Tsai, Chien Fu Hung, T. C. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A technology to prime desired populations of T cells in the body—particularly those that possess low avidity against target antigen—would pave the way for the design of new types of vaccination for intractable infectious diseases or cancer. Here, we report such a technology based on positive feedback-driven, programmed self-assembly of peptide–major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) directly on the membrane of cognate T cells. Our design capitalizes on the unique features of the protein annexin V (ANXA5), which—in a concerted and synergistic manner—couples the early onset of TCR signaling by cognate pMHC with a surge in pMHC–TCR affinity, with repeated pMHC encounters, and with widespread TCR cross-linking. In our system, ANXA5 is linked to pMHC and firmly engages the plasma membrane of cognate T cells upon (and only upon) the early onset of TCR signaling. ANXA5, in turn, exerts a mechanical force that stabilizes interactions at the TCR–pMHC interface and facilitates repeated, serial pMHC encounters. Furthermore, ANXA5 quickly arranges into uniform 2D matrices, thereby prompting TCR cross-linking. Fusion of ANXA5 to pMHC augments lymphocyte activation by several orders of magnitude (>1,000-fold), bypasses the need for costimulation, and breaks tolerance against a model self-antigen in vivo. Our study opens the door to the application of synthetic, feedback-driven self-assembly platforms in immune modulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E4032-E4040
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 24 2018


  • T cell signaling | immune modulation | antigen-specific lymphocyte | annexin V | protein self-assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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