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Highlight Movie

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made with VMD

Infections are battled best by the human immune system when there exists a memory from a previous disease or vaccination. The first step in using this line of defense is recognition: Cells of the immune system capture antigens, e.g., microbes in the respiratory tract, then mature in the lymph system, and finally present on their surface pieces of the antigen to T-cells that may recognize the antigen and become activated. The recognition of the antigen by T-cells is dramatically enhanced through surface receptors, CD2 and CD58, on the T-cell and the antigen presenting cell. The receptors stick out from their cell, adhere to one another, and conjoin the T-cell and antigen presenting cell long enough to enable recognition and activation. The molecular basis of this adhesion has been probed in a recent collaborative study with UIUC chemical engineer D. Leckband. Starting from the available crystallographic structure of the CD2-CD58 complex the researchers carried out 90,000 and 100,000 atom simulations using NAMD and pulled the complex apart in steered molecular dynamics simulations. An analysis of the simulations with VMD revealed in atomic level detail how the human immune system is strengthened through elastic adhesion.