Immunological synapse: a mathematical model of the bond formation process
: mathematical modelling of the immature synapse

  • Daniel Bush

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The cell:cell bond between an immune cell and an antigen presenting cell is a necessary event in the activation of the adaptive immune response. At the juncture between the cells, cell surface molecules on the opposing cells form non-covalent bonds and a distinct patterning is observed that is termed the immunological synapse. An important binding molecule in the synapse is the T-cell receptor (TCR), that is responsible for antigen recognition through its binding with a major-histocompatibility complex with bound peptide (pMHC). This bond leads to intracellular signalling events that culminate in the activation of the T-cell, and
    ultimately leads to the expression of the immune eector function. The temporal analysis of the TCR bonds during the formation of the immunological synapse presents a problem to biologists, due to the spatio-temporal scales (nanometers and picoseconds) that compare with experimental uncertainty limits.
    In this study, a linear stochastic model, derived from a nonlinear model of the synapse, is used to analyse the temporal dynamics of the bond attachments for the TCR. Mathematical analysis and numerical methods are employed to analyse the qualitative dynamics of the nonequilibrium membrane dynamics, with the specic aim of calculating the average persistence time for the TCR:pMHC bond. A single-threshold method, that has been previously used to successfully calculate the TCR:pMHC contact path sizes in the synapse, is applied to produce results for the average contact times of the TCR:pMHC bonds. This method is extended through the development of a two-threshold method, that produces results suggesting the average time persistence for the TCR:pMHC bond is in the order of 2-4 seconds, values that agree with experimental evidence for TCR signalling. The study reveals two distinct scaling regimes in the time persistent survival probability density prole of these bonds, one dominated by thermal uctuations and the other associated with the TCR signalling. Analysis of the thermal fluctuation regime reveals a minimal contribution to the average time persistence calculation, that has an important biological implication when comparing the probabilistic models to experimental evidence. In cases where only a few statistics can be gathered from experimental conditions, the results are unlikely to match the probabilistic predictions. The results also identify a rescaling relationship between the thermal noise and the bond length, suggesting a recalibration of the experimental conditions, to adhere to this scaling relationship, will enable biologists to identify the start of the signalling regime for previously unobserved receptor:ligand bonds. Also, the regime associated with TCR signalling exhibits a universal decay rate for the persistence probability, that is independent of the bond length.
    Date of Award19 Feb 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAmit Chattopadhyay (Supervisor)


    • TCR bond persistence
    • stochastic dierential equation modelling
    • survival probability scaling exponent

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