Activating interactions of sulfanilamides with T cell receptors


Activation and expansion of drug reactive T cells are key features in drug hypersensitivity reactions. Drugs may interact directly with immune receptors such as the human leukocyte antigens (HLA) or the T-cell receptors (TCR) itself, the pharmacological interaction [p-i] concept. To analyze whether the drug sulfamethoxazole (SMX) interacts directly with the TCR and thereby contributing to signaling and T cell activation, we analyze two SMX specific T cell clones (TCC “1.3”and “H13”). Proliferation to SMX and 11 related sulfanilamides, Ca++ influx in drug stimulated T-cells and the inhibitory effect of non-reactive sulfanilamides on SMX stimulation were analyzed. In silico docking of SMX and related sulfanilamide to the TCR were used to identify possible drug binding sites, and correlated to in vitro data to find the correct docking. In Ca++ influx assays, reactions occurred as early as 14 sec after adding SMX to TCC and APC. The broadly reactive clone (“H13”) was stimulated by 5 additional sulfanilamide, while one TCC (“1.3”) was reactive exclusively with SMX but not other sulfanilamides. Competition experiments with sulfanilamide inhibited SMX induced Ca++ influx and proliferation of the TCC1.3 ina dose dependent way. Docking experiments with SMX and related sulfanilamides confirmed and explained the in vitro data as docking localized binding sites for SMX and the 5 stimulating sulfanilamides on the CDR2β domain of the clone H13, while the 6 non-stimulatory SA failed to bind. In TCC 1.3, SMX could be docked on the CDR3α of the TCR. The other, non-stimulatory but inhibitory SA could also be docked to the same site. The combined analysis of in vitro and in silico data show that sulfanilamide can bind directly to TCRs. It shows that TCR, like other receptors, appear to be reamenable to manipulations by small molecules.

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Watkins, S. and Pichler, W. (2013) Activating interactions of sulfanilamides with T cell receptors. Open Journal of Immunology, 3, 139-157. doi: 10.4236/oji.2013.33019.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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