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Immunol Rev. 2009 Nov;232(1):59-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2009.00832.x.

Inhibitory ITAMs as novel regulators of immunity.

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Inserm U699, Paris, France.


Immune homeostasis is regulated by a finely tuned network of positive-negative regulatory mechanisms that guarantees proper surveillance avoiding hyperactivity that would lead to autoimmunity and inflammatory diseases. Immune responses involve the activation of immunoreceptors that contain tyrosine-based activation motifs (ITAMs). One arm of control involves immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motif (ITIM)-bearing receptors, which upon co-aggregation initiate an inhibitory signal through recruitment of signal-aborting phosphatases. Recently, a new immunoregulatory function has been ascribed to ITAMs, which represent in fact dual function modules that, under specific configurations termed inhibitory ITAM (ITAMi), can propagate inhibitory signals. One paradigm is the immunoglobulin A (IgA) Fc receptor (FcalphaRI), which, upon interaction with IgA monomers in the absence of antigen, initiates a powerful inhibitory signal involving Src homology 2 domain-containing phosphatase 1 (SHP-1) recruitment that suppresses cell activation launched by a whole variety of heterologous receptors without co-aggregation. This explains the long known function of IgA as an anti-inflammatory isotype. The importance of this control mechanism in immune homeostasis is underlined by the high incidence of autoimmune and allergic diseases in IgA-deficient patients. ITAMi is now described for an increasing number of immunoreceptors with multiple roles in immunity. ITAMi signaling is also exploited by Escherichia coli to achieve immune evasion during sepsis. Here, we review our current understanding of ITAMi regulatory mechanisms in immune responses and discuss its role in immune homeostasis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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