Cytotoxic T cells | Immune system physiology

A cytotoxic T cell

Is a T lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) that kills cancer cells, cells that are infected particularly with viruses, or cells that are damaged in other ways.

Most cytotoxic T cells express T-cell receptors (TCRs) that can recognize a specific antigen. An antigen is a molecule capable of stimulating an immune response, and is often produced by cancer cells or viruses. Antigens inside a cell are bound to class I MHC molecules, and brought to the surface of the cell by the class I MHC molecule, where they can be recognized by the T cell. If the TCR is specific for that antigen, it binds to the complex of the class I MHC molecule and the antigen, and the T cell destroys the cell.

In order for the TCR to bind to the class I MHC molecule, the former must be accompanied by a glycoprotein called CD8, which binds to the constant portion of the class I MHC molecule. Therefore, these T cells are called CD8+ T cells.

Cytotoxic T cell is also known as TC, cytotoxic T lymphocyte, CTL, T-killer cell, cytolytic T cell, CD8+ T-cell or killer T cell.

How cytotoxic T cells get activated by MHC-I/antigen complexes and then proceed to kill infected cells. Created by Sal Khan.

Watch the next lesson: https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/nclex-rn/rn-immune-system/rn-the-immune-system/v/review-of-b-cells-cd4-t-cells-and-cd8-t-cells?utm_source=YT&utm_medium=Desc&utm_campaign=Nclex-rn

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