Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Georgia Institute of Technology (2008)

Stanford Advisors


Journal Articles

  • A Single Peptide-Major Histocompatibility Complex Ligand Triggers Digital Cytokine Secretion in CD4(+) T Cells. Immunity Huang, J., Brameshuber, M., Zeng, X., Xie, J., Li, Q., Chien, Y., Valitutti, S., Davis, M. M. 2013; 39 (5): 846-857


    We have developed a single-molecule imaging technique that uses quantum-dot-labeled peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) ligands to study CD4(+) T cell functional sensitivity. We found that naive T cells, T cell blasts, and memory T cells could all be triggered by a single pMHC to secrete tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) cytokines with a rate of ∼1,000, ∼10,000, and ∼10,000 molecules/min, respectively, and that additional pMHCs did not augment secretion, indicating a digital response pattern. We also found that a single pMHC localized to the immunological synapse induced the slow formation of a long-lasting T cell receptor (TCR) cluster, consistent with a serial engagement mechanism. These data show that scaling up CD4(+) T cell cytokine responses involves increasingly efficient T cell recruitment rather than greater cytokine production per cell.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.immuni.2013.08.036

    View details for PubMedID 24120362

  • Insights from in situ analysis of TCR-pMHC recognition: response of an interaction network IMMUNOLOGICAL REVIEWS Zhu, C., Jiang, N., Huang, J., Zarnitsyna, V. I., Evavold, B. D. 2013; 251: 49-64


    Recognition of peptide presented by the major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) molecule by the T-cell receptor (TCR) determines T-cell selection, development, differentiation, fate, and function. Despite intensive studies on the structures, thermodynamic properties, kinetic rates, and affinities of TCR-pMHC interactions in the past two decades, questions regarding the functional outcome of these interactions, i.e. how binding of the ?? TCR heterodimer with distinct pMHCs triggers different intracellular signals via the adjacent CD3 components to produce different T-cell responses, remain unclear. Most kinetic measurements have used surface plasmon resonance, a three-dimensional (3D) technique in which fluid-phase receptors and ligands are removed from their cellular environment. Recently, several two-dimensional (2D) techniques have been developed to analyze molecular interactions on live T cells with pMHCs presented by surrogate antigen-presenting cells or supported planar lipid bilayers. The insights from these in situ analyses have provided a sharp contrast of the 2D network biology approach to the 3D reductionist approach and prompted rethinking of our current views of T-cell triggering. Based on these insights, we propose a mechanochemical coupled triggering hypothesis to explain why the in situ kinetic parameters differ so much from their 3D counterparts, yet correlate so much better with T-cell functional responses.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/imr.12016

    View details for Web of Science ID 000317077400005

    View details for PubMedID 23278740

  • T cell antigen recognition at the cell membrane MOLECULAR IMMUNOLOGY Huang, J., Meyer, C., Zhu, C. 2012; 52 (3-4): 155-164


    T cell antigen receptors (TCRs) on the surface of T cells bind specifically to particular peptide bound major histocompatibility complexes (pMHCs) presented on the surface of antigen presenting cells (APCs). This interaction is a key event in T cell antigen recognition and activation. Most studies have used surface plasmon resonance (SPR) to measure the in vitro binding kinetics of TCR-pMHC interactions in solution using purified proteins. However, these measurements are not physiologically precise, as both TCRs and pMHCs are membrane-associated molecules which are regulated by their cellular environments. Recently, single-molecule förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) and single-molecule mechanical assays were used to measure the in situ binding kinetics of TCR-pMHC interactions on the surface of live T cells. These studies have provided exciting insights into the biochemical basis of T cell antigen recognition and suggest that TCRs serially engage with a small number of antigens with very fast kinetics in order to maximize TCR signaling and sensitivity.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.molimm.2012.05.004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000307489800008

    View details for PubMedID 22683645

  • gamma delta T Cells Recognize a Microbial Encoded B Cell Antigen to Initiate a Rapid Antigen-Specific Interleukin-17 Response IMMUNITY Zeng, X., Wei, Y., Huang, J., Newell, E. W., Yu, H., Kidd, B. A., Kuhns, M. S., Waters, R. W., Davis, M. M., Weaver, C. T., Chien, Y. 2012; 37 (3): 524-534


    ?? T cells contribute uniquely to immune competence. Nevertheless, how they function remains an enigma. It is unclear what most ?? T cells recognize, what is required for them to mount an immune response, and how the ?? T cell response is integrated into host immune defense. Here, we report that a noted B cell antigen, the algae protein phycoerythrin (PE), is a murine and human ?? T cell antigen. Employing this specificity, we demonstrated that antigen recognition activated naive ?? T cells to make interleukin-17 and respond to cytokine signals that perpetuate the response. High frequencies of antigen-specific ?? T cells in naive animals and their ability to mount effector response without extensive clonal expansion allow ?? T cells to initiate a swift, substantial response. These results underscore the adaptability of lymphocyte antigen receptors and suggest an antigen-driven rapid response in protective immunity prior to the maturation of classical adaptive immunity.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.immuni.2012.06.011

    View details for Web of Science ID 000309199000016

    View details for PubMedID 22960222

  • Photocrosslinkable pMHC monomers stain T cells specifically and cause ligand-bound TCRs to be 'preferentially' transported to the cSMAC NATURE IMMUNOLOGY Xie, J., Huppa, J. B., Newell, E. W., Huang, J., Ebert, P. J., Li, Q., Davis, M. M. 2012; 13 (7): 674-?


    The binding of T cell antigen receptors (TCRs) to specific complexes of peptide and major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) is typically of very low affinity, which necessitates the use of multimeric pMHC complexes to label T lymphocytes stably. We report here the development of pMHC complexes able to be crosslinked by ultraviolet irradiation; even as monomers, these efficiently and specifically stained cognate T cells. We also used this reagent to probe T cell activation and found that a covalently bound pMHC was more stimulatory than an agonist pMHC on lipid bilayers. This finding suggested that serial engagement of TCRs is dispensable for activation when a substantial fraction of TCRs are stably engaged. Finally, pMHC-bound TCRs were 'preferentially' transported into the central supramolecular activation cluster after activation, which suggested that ligand engagement enabled linkage of the TCR and its associated CD3 signaling molecules to the cytoskeleton.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ni.2344

    View details for Web of Science ID 000305483800013

    View details for PubMedID 22660579

  • Two-Stage Cooperative T Cell Receptor-Peptide Major Histocompatibility Complex-CD8 Trimolecular Interactions Amplify Antigen Discrimination IMMUNITY Jiang, N., Huang, J., Edwards, L. J., Liu, B., Zhang, Y., Beal, C. D., Evavold, B. D., Zhu, C. 2011; 34 (1): 13-23


    The T cell receptor (TCR) and CD8 bind peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) glycoproteins to initiate adaptive immune responses, yet the trimolecular binding kinetics at the T cell membrane is unknown. By using a micropipette adhesion frequency assay, we show that this kinetics has two stages. The first consists of TCR-dominant binding to agonist pMHC. This triggers a second stage consisting of a step increase in adhesion after a one second delay. The second-stage binding requires Src family kinase activity to initiate CD8 binding to the same pMHC engaged by the TCR. This induced trimeric-cooperative interaction enhances adhesion synergistically to favor potent ligands, which further amplifies discrimination. Our data reveal a TCR-CD8 positive-feedback loop involved in initial signaling steps that is sensitive to a single pMHC is rapid, reversible, synergistic, and peptide discriminative.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.immuni.2010.12.017

    View details for Web of Science ID 000287336600006

    View details for PubMedID 21256056

  • High prevalence of low affinity peptide-MHC II tetramer-negative effectors during polyclonal CD4(+) T cell responses JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL MEDICINE Sabatino, J. J., Huang, J., Zhu, C., Evavold, B. D. 2011; 208 (1): 81-90


    T cell affinity for antigen initiates adaptive immunity. However, the contribution of low affinity cells to a response is unknown as it has not been possible to assess the entire affinity range of a polyclonal T cell repertoire. In this study, we used a highly sensitive two-dimensional binding assay to identify low affinity cells in polyclonal autoreactive and pathogen-reactive CD4(+) T cell populations specific for myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) antigens, respectively. Low affinity CD4(+) T cells, below detection with peptide-major histocompatibility complex class II tetramers, were at least as frequent as high affinity responders and contributed significant effector cytokines in both primary antigen-specific responses. We further demonstrated that MOG- and LCMV-specific CD4(+) T cells possessed similarly broad ranges in their affinities (>100-fold wide), only differing in the frequencies of low and high affinity cells. Thus, low as well as high affinity CD4(+) T cells are critical effectors in autoimmune and pathogen-specific responses.

    View details for DOI 10.1084/jem.20101574

    View details for Web of Science ID 000286309300007

    View details for PubMedID 21220453

  • The kinetics of two-dimensional TCR and pMHC interactions determine T-cell responsiveness NATURE Huang, J., Zarnitsyna, V. I., Liu, B., Edwards, L. J., Jiang, N., Evavold, B. D., Zhu, C. 2010; 464 (7290): 932-U156


    The T-cell receptor (TCR) interacts with peptide-major histocompatibility complexes (pMHC) to discriminate pathogens from self-antigens and trigger adaptive immune responses. Direct physical contact is required between the T cell and the antigen-presenting cell for cross-junctional binding where the TCR and pMHC are anchored on two-dimensional (2D) membranes of the apposing cells. Despite their 2D nature, TCR-pMHC binding kinetics have only been analysed three-dimensionally (3D) with a varying degree of correlation with the T-cell responsiveness. Here we use two mechanical assays to show high 2D affinities between a TCR and its antigenic pMHC driven by rapid on-rates. Compared to their 3D counterparts, 2D affinities and on-rates of the TCR for a panel of pMHC ligands possess far broader dynamic ranges that match that of their corresponding T-cell responses. The best 3D predictor of response is the off-rate, with agonist pMHC dissociating the slowest. In contrast, 2D off-rates are up to 8,300-fold faster, with the agonist pMHC dissociating the fastest. Our 2D data suggest rapid antigen sampling by T cells and serial engagement of a few agonist pMHCs by TCRs in a large self pMHC background. Thus, the cellular environment amplifies the intrinsic TCR-pMHC binding to generate broad affinities and rapid kinetics that determine T-cell responsiveness.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature08944

    View details for Web of Science ID 000276397300046

    View details for PubMedID 20357766

  • Measuring Receptor-Ligand Binding Kinetics on Cell Surfaces: From Adhesion Frequency to Thermal Fluctuation Methods CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR BIOENGINEERING Chen, W., Zarnitsyna, V. I., Sarangapani, K. K., Huang, J., Zhu, C. 2008; 1 (4): 276-288


    Interactions between surface-anchored receptors and ligands mediate cell-cell and cell-environment communications in many biological processes. Molecular interactions across two apposing cell membrane are governed by two-dimensional (2D) kinetics, which are physically distinct from and biologically more relevant than three-dimensional (3D) kinetics with at least one interacting molecular species in the fluid phase. Here we review two assays for measuring 2D binding kinetics: the adhesion frequency assay and the thermal fluctuation assay. The former measures the binding frequency as a function of contact duration and extracts the force-free 2D kinetics parameters by nonlinearly fitting the data with a probabilistic model. The latter detects bond formation/dissociation by monitoring the reduction/resumption of thermal fluctuations of a force sensor. Both assays are mechanically based and operate at the level of mostly single molecular interaction, which requires ultrasensitive force techniques. Characterization of one such technique, the biomembrane force probe, is presented.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s12195-008-0024-8

    View details for Web of Science ID 000269822100008

    View details for PubMedID 19890486

  • Kinetics of MHC-CD8 interaction at the T cell membrane JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY Huang, J., Edwards, L. J., Evavold, B. D., Zhu, C. 2007; 179 (11): 7653-7662


    CD8 plays an important role in facilitating TCR-MHC interaction, promoting Ag recognition, and initiating T cell activation. MHC-CD8 binding kinetics have been measured in three dimensions by surface plasmon resonance technique using purified molecules. However, CD8 is a membrane-anchored, signaling kinase-linked, and TCR-associated molecule whose function depends on the cell membrane environment. Purified molecules lack their linkage to the membrane, which precludes interactions with other structures of the cell as well as signaling. Furthermore, three-dimensional binding in the fluid phase is biologically and physically distinct from two-dimensional binding across apposing cell membranes. As a first step toward characterizing the molecular interactions between T cells and APCs, we used a micropipette adhesion frequency assay to measure the adhesion kinetics of single mouse T cells interacting with single human RBCs coated with MHC. Using anti-TCR mAb we isolated and characterized the specific two-dimensional MHC-CD8 binding from the trimolecular TCR-MHC-CD8 interaction. The TCR-independent MHC-CD8 interaction has a very low affinity that depends on the MHC alleles, but not on the peptide complexed to the MHC and whether CD8 is an alphaalpha homodimer or an alphabeta heterodimer. Surprisingly, MHC-CD8 binding affinity varies with T cells from different TCR transgenic mice and these affinity differences were abolished by treatment with cholesterol oxidase to disrupt membrane rafts. These data highlight the relevance and importance of two-dimensional analysis of T cells and APCs and indicate that membrane rafts play an important role in modulating the affinity of cell-cell interactions.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000251378300054

    View details for PubMedID 18025211

  • Memory in receptor-ligand-mediated cell adhesion PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Zarnitsyna, V. I., Huang, J., Zhang, F., Chien, Y., Leckband, D., Zhu, C. 2007; 104 (46): 18037-18042


    Single-molecule biomechanical measurements, such as the force to unfold a protein domain or the lifetime of a receptor-ligand bond, are inherently stochastic, thereby requiring a large number of data for statistical analysis. Sequentially repeated tests are generally used to obtain a data ensemble, implicitly assuming that the test sequence consists of independent and identically distributed (i.i.d.) random variables, i.e., a Bernoulli sequence. We tested this assumption by using data from the micropipette adhesion frequency assay that generates sequences of two random outcomes: adhesion and no adhesion. Analysis of distributions of consecutive adhesion events revealed violation of the i.i.d. assumption, depending on the receptor-ligand systems studied. These include Markov sequences with positive (T cell receptor interacting with antigen peptide bound to a major histocompatibility complex) or negative (homotypic interaction between C-cadherins) feedbacks, where adhesion probability in the next test was increased or decreased, respectively, by adhesion in the immediate past test. These molecular interactions mediate cell adhesion and cell signaling. The ability to "remember" the previous adhesion event may represent a mechanism by which the cell regulates adhesion and signaling.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0704811104

    View details for Web of Science ID 000251077000027

    View details for PubMedID 17991779

  • Quantifying the effects of molecular orientation and length on two-dimensional receptor-ligand binding kinetics JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY Huang, J., Chen, J., Chesla, S. E., Yago, T., Mehta, P., McEver, R. P., Zhu, C., Long, M. 2004; 279 (43): 44915-44923


    Surface presentation of adhesion receptors influences cell adhesion, although the mechanisms underlying these effects are not well understood. We used a micropipette adhesion frequency assay to quantify how the molecular orientation and length of adhesion receptors on the cell membrane affected two-dimensional kinetic rates of interactions with surface ligands. Interactions of P-selectin, E-selectin, and CD16A with their respective ligands or antibody were used to demonstrate such effects. Randomizing the orientation of the adhesion receptor or lowering its ligand- and antibody-binding domain above the cell membrane lowered two-dimensional affinities of the molecular interactions by reducing the forward rates but not the reverse rates. In contrast, the soluble antibody bound with similar three-dimensional affinities to cell-bound P-selectin constructs regardless of their orientation and length. These results demonstrate that the orientation and length of an adhesion receptor influences its rate of encountering and binding a surface ligand but does not subsequently affect the stability of binding.

    View details for DOI 10.1074/jbc.M407039200

    View details for Web of Science ID 000224505600082

    View details for PubMedID 15299021

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