Trafficking of MHC molecules to the cell surface creates dynamic protein patches

Daniel Blumenthal, Michael Edidin, Levi A. Gheber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) molecules signal infection or transformation by engaging receptors on T lymphocytes. The spatial organization of MHC-I on the plasma membranes is important for this engagement. We and others have shown that MHC-I molecules, like other membrane proteins, are not uniformly distributed, but occur in patches in the plasma membrane. Here, we describe the temporal details of MHC-I patch formation and combine them with the spatial details, which we have described earlier, to yield a comprehensive quantitative description of patch formation. MHC-I is delivered to the plasma membrane in clathrin-coated vesicles, arriving at a rate of ~2.5×10-3 μm-1 min-1 (or about two arrivals per minute over the whole cell). The vesicles dock and fuse at non-random, apparently targeted, locations on the membrane and the newly delivered MHC-I molecules form patches that are a few hundred nanometers in diameter. The patches are maintained at steady state by a dynamic equilibrium between the rate of delivery and the rate of hindered diffusion of MHC-I molecules out of the patches (caused by components of the actin cytoskeleton).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3342-3350
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • FRAP
  • Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching
  • MHC-I
  • Major histocompatibility complex class I
  • Membrane trafficking
  • Obstructed diffusion
  • Total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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