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T cells are essential mediators of the adaptive immune system, which constantly patrol the body in search for invading pathogens. During an infection, T cells that recognise the pathogen are recruited, expand and differentiate into subtypes tailored to the infection. In addition, they differentiate into subsets required for short and long-term control of the pathogen, i.e., effector or memory. T cells have a remarkable degree of plasticity and heterogeneity in their response, however, their overall response to a given infection is consistent and robust. Much research has focused on how individual T cells are activated and programmed. However, in order to achieve a critical level of population-wide reproducibility and robustness, neighbouring cells and surrounding tissues have to provide or amplify relevant signals to tune the overall response accordingly. The characteristics of the immune response-stochastic on the individual cell level, robust on the global level-necessitate coordinated responses on a system-wide level, which facilitates the control of pathogens, while maintaining self-tolerance. This global coordination can only be achieved by constant cellular communication between responding cells, and faults in this intercellular crosstalk can potentially lead to immunopathology or autoimmunity. In this review, we will discuss how T cells mount a global, collective response, by describing the modes of T cell-T cell (T-T) communication they use and highlighting their physiological relevance in programming and controlling the T cell response.

Original publication




Journal article


Int j mol sci

Publication Date





T cells, communication, cytokines, integrins, synapses