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Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Apr;165(7):2089-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01753.x.

Pharmacological modulation of GITRL/GITR system: therapeutic perspectives.

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy.


Glucocorticoid-induced TNFR-related (gitr) is a gene coding for a member of the TNF receptor superfamily. GITR activation by its ligand (GITRL) influences the activity of effector and regulatory T cells, thus participating in the development of immune response against tumours and infectious agents, as well as in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Notably, treating animals with GITR-Fc fusion protein ameliorates autoimmune/inflammatory diseases while GITR triggering, by treatment with anti-GITR mAb, is effective in treating viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, as well in boosting immune response against tumours. GITR modulation has been indicated as one of the top 25 most promising research areas by the American National Cancer Institute, and a clinical trial testing the efficacy of an anti-GITR mAb in melanoma patients has been started. In this review, we summarize results regarding: (i) the mechanisms by which GITRL/GITR system modulates immune response; (ii) the structural and functional studies clearly demonstrating differences between GITRL/GITR systems of mice and humans; (iii) the molecules with pharmacological activities including anti-GITR mAbs, GITR-Fc and GITRL-Fc fusion proteins, GITRL in monomer or multimer conformation; and (iv) the possible risks deriving from GITRL/GITR system pharmacological modulation. In conclusion, GITR triggering and inhibition could be useful in treating tumours, infectious diseases, as well as autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. However, differences between mouse and human GITRL/GITR systems suggest that further preclinical studies are needed to better understand how safe therapeutic results can be obtained and to design appropriate clinical trials.

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