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Antigen presentation and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs): elucidating a common roadblock for students

Author(s): Marcia Hesser

Kennesaw State University

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Active learning resource for pre-Nursing anatomy and physiology lecture explaining antigen presentation to CTLs and how the CTLs recognize and destroy the pathogen using Biointeractive animations and clicker questions.


Anatomy and physiology students historically have a difficult time learning the complicated inter-workings of the immune system.  The following is an in-class learning activity designed to utilize 50 minutes of face-to-face (or synchronous online) lecture for pre-Nursing students at a 2- or 4-year university.  The activity is targeted to one aspect of the adaptive immune system, CTL antigen presentation.  The goal is to organize the material into smaller, more manageable sections using 3 short clips from a pre-existing HHMI Biointeractive animation (adapted specifically for this activity), followed by targeted student discussion (think/pair/share).  A student response system (such as clickers) is also a feature of this activity that incorporates questions designed to gauge understanding in real-time.  Applications to the real-world using a simple case study and medical research offer the students a chance to think critically and an engaging connection to personal interests.  After this activity students will:

1. Briefly describe how nonself viral proteins are incorporated into MHC class I receptors of an infected self cell.

2. Outline the steps required for a CTL to recognize a nonself MHC class I.

3. Connect the roles of antigen presenting cells and helper T cells in CTL activation.

4. Describe how a CTL destroys an identified nonself, viral-infected cell.

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