T cell receptor engineering and analysis using the yeast display platform

Sheena N. Smith, Daniel T. Harris, David M. Kranz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The αβ heterodimeric T cell receptor (TCR) recognizes peptide antigens that are transported to the cell surface as a complex with a protein encoded by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). T cells thus evolved a strategy to sense these intracellular antigens, and to respond either by eliminating the antigenpresenting cell (e.g., a virus-infected cell) or by secreting factors that recruit the immune system to the site of the antigen. The central role of the TCR in the binding of antigens as peptide-MHC (pepMHC) ligands has now been studied thoroughly. Interestingly, despite their exquisite sensitivity (e.g., T cell activation by as few as 1–3 pepMHC complexes on a single target cell), TCRs are known to have relatively low affinities for pepMHC, with KD values in the micromolar range. There has been interest in engineering the affinity of TCRs in order to use this class of molecules in ways similar to now done with antibodies. By doing so, it would be possible to harness the potential of TCRs as therapeutics against a much wider array of antigens that include essentially all intracellular targets. To engineer TCRs, and to analyze their binding features more rapidly, we have used a yeast display system as a platform. Expression and engineering of a singlechain form of the TCR, analogous to scFv fragments from antibodies, allow the TCR to be affinity matured with a variety of possible pepMHC ligands. In addition, the yeast display platform allows one to rapidly generate TCR variants with diverse binding affinities and to analyze specificity and affinity without the need for purification of soluble forms of the TCRs. The present chapter describes the methods for engineering and analyzing single-chain TCRs using yeast display.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-141
Number of pages47
JournalMethods in Molecular Biology
StatePublished - 2015


  • Affinity maturation
  • Intracellular antigens
  • Major histocompatibility complex
  • Peptide antigens
  • Singlechain T cell receptors
  • T cell receptors
  • Yeast display

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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