Natural killer cells assess target cell health via interactions at the immune synapse (IS) that facilitates signal integration and directed secretion. Here we test whether the IS also functions as a gasket. Quantitative fluorescence microscopy of nanometer-scale dextrans within synapses formed by various effector-target cell conjugates reveal that molecules are excluded in a size-dependent manner at activating synapses. Dextran sized ≤4 nm move in and out of the IS, but access is significantly reduced (by >50%) for dextran sized 10-13 nm, and dextran ≥32 nm is almost entirely excluded. Depolymerization of F-actin abrogated exclusion. Unexpectedly, larger-sized dextrans are cleared as the IS assembles in a zipper-like manner. Monoclonal antibodies are also excluded from the IS but smaller single-domain antibodies are able to penetrate. Therefore, the IS can clear and exclude molecules above a size threshold, and drugs designed to target synaptic cytokines or cytotoxic proteins must fit these dimensions.
Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms
- Lydia Becker Institute
- Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing