, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 256-268,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 18 May 2010

Modeling of B cell Synapse Formation by Monte Carlo Simulation Shows That Directed Transport of Receptor Molecules Is a Potential Formation Mechanism


The formation of the protein segregation structure known as the “immunological synapse” in the contact region between B cells and antigen presenting cells appears to precede antigen (Ag) uptake by B cells. The mature B cell synapse consists of a central cluster of B cell receptor/Antigen (BCR/Ag) complexes surrounded by a ring of LFA-1/ICAM-1 complexes. In this study, we used an in silico model to investigate whether cytoskeletally driven transport of molecules toward the center of the contact zone is a potential mechanism of immunological synapse formation in B cells. We modeled directed transport by the cytoskeleton in an effective manner, by biasing the diffusion of molecules toward the center of the contact zone. Our results clearly show that biased diffusion of BCR/Ag complexes on the B cell surface is sufficient to produce patterns similar to experimentally observed immunological synapses. This is true even in the presence of significant membrane deformation as a result of receptor–ligand binding, which in previous work we showed had a detrimental effect on synapse formation at high antigen affinity values. Comparison of our model’s results to those of experiments shows that our model produces synapses for realistic length, time, and affinity scales. Our results also show that strong biased diffusion of free molecules has a negative effect on synapse formation by excluding BCR/Ag complexes from the center of the contact zone. However, synapses may still form provided the bias in diffusion of free molecules is an order-of-magnitude weaker than that of BCR/Ag complexes. We also show how diffusion trajectories obtained from single-molecule tracking experiments can generate insight into the mechanism of synapse formation.

Associate Editor Edward Guo oversaw the review of this article.