The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 252, Issue 4–5, pp 397–412 | Cite as

Membrane Organization and Physical Regulation of Lymphocyte Antigen Receptors: A Biophysicist’s Perspective

  • Laurent LimozinEmail author
  • Pierre-Henri Puech
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Membrane and Receptor Dynamics


Receptors at the membrane of immune cells are the central players of innate and adaptative immunity, providing effective defence mechanisms against pathogens or cancer cells. Their function is intimately linked to their position at and within the membrane which provides accessibility, mobility as well as membrane proximal cytoskeleton anchoring, all of these elements playing important roles in the final function and links to cellular actions. Understanding how immune cells integrate the specific signals received at their membrane to take a decision remains an immense challenge and a very active field of fundamental and applied research. Recent progress in imaging and micromanipulation techniques have led to an unprecedented refinement in the description of molecular structures and supramolecular assemblies at the immune cell membrane, and provided a glimpse into their dynamics and regulation by force. Several key elements have been scrutinized such as the roles of relative sizes of molecules, lateral organisation, motion in the membrane of the receptors, but also physical cues such as forces, mediated by cellular substrates of different rigidities or applied by the cell itself, in conjunction with its partner cell. We review here these recent discoveries associated with a description of the biophysical methods used. While a conclusive picture integrating all of these components is still lacking, mainly due to the implication of diverse and different mechanisms and spatio-temporal scales involved, the amount of quantitative data available opens the way for physical modelling and numerical simulations and new avenues for experimental research.


Immunobiophysics Lymphocyte Cell adhesion mechanisms Receptors Mechanobiology 



Atomic force microscopy


Antigen presenting cell


B cell receptor


Bio-membrane force probe


Chimeric antigen receptor


Complementary determining regions


Constant fragment receptor


Fluorescence correlation microscopy


Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching


Förster resonance energy transfer


Inter-cellular adhesion molecule




Immuno-receptor tyrosine-based activation motifs


Immuno-receptor tyrosine-based inhibition motifs


Lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1


Laminar flow chamber


Natural killer


peptide Major histocompatibility complex


Reflection interference contrast microscopy


Structured illumination microscopy


Single-molecule localisation microscopy


T-cell receptor


Traction force microscopy


Total internal reflection fluorescence



We thank Pierre Dillard and Fuwei Pi for the microscopy images of Fig. 2b, Pierre Bongrand and Kheya Sengupta for scientific exchanges and critical reading of the manuscript, as well as all present and past members of Laboratoire Adhesion and Inflammation for numerous discussions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, INSERM, Laboratoire Adhesion and InflammationMarseilleFrance

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