The formation of the immunological synapse between a T cell and the antigen-presenting cell (APC) is critically dependent on actin dynamics, downstream of T cell receptor (TCR) and integrin (LFA-1) signalling. There is also accumulating evidence that mechanical forces, generated by actin polymerization and/or myosin contractility regulate T cell signalling. Because both receptor pathways are intertwined, their contributions towards the cytoskeletal organization remain elusive. Here, we identify the specific roles of TCR and LFA-1 by using a combination of micropatterning to spatially separate signalling systems and nanopillar arrays for high-precision analysis of cellular forces. We identify that Arp2/3 acts downstream of TCRs to nucleate dense actin foci but propagation of the network requires LFA-1 and the formin FHOD1. LFA-1 adhesion enhances actomyosin forces, which in turn modulate actin assembly downstream of the TCR. Together our data shows a mechanically cooperative system through which ligands presented by an APC modulate T cell activation.
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