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Immunol Lett. 2017 Apr;184:43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2017.02.007. Epub 2017 Feb 16.

EFIS Lecture: Understanding the CTLA-4 checkpoint in the maintenance of immune homeostasis.

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Institute of Immunity & Transplantation, University College London Division of Infection & Immunity, Royal Free Campus, London, NW3 2PF, UK. Electronic address:


The past 20 years have heralded fascinating developments in the field of CTLA-4 biology. The CTLA-4 protein is a critical negative regulator of T cell immunity and its absence provokes severe lymphoproliferative disease. In a surprising twist, the generation of mixed bone marrow chimeric mice revealed that CTLA-4 predominantly functions in a cell-extrinsic manner, suggesting that CTLA-4 expressed on one cell can modify the behaviour of another cell. This was followed by the demonstration that CTLA-4 is highly expressed in regulatory T cells and can contribute to their suppressive activity. In line with a cell-extrinsic function, increasing evidence indicates that CTLA-4-positive cells can modify the phenotype of antigen presenting cells (APC), thereby regulating the priming of naive T cells. Notably, CTLA-4 is able to downregulate expression of costimulatory ligands on APC via a process of trans-endocytosis. The identification of patients with mutations in the ctla4 gene has provided an opportunity to study the contribution of CTLA-4 to Treg function and immune regulation in the human immune system. Finally, it has become apparent that CTLA-4 also plays a role in controlling humoral immunity, via the regulation of CD28-driven follicular helper T cell differentiation. At the recent German Society for Immunology congress, I discussed some of the contributions of my own lab to the unfolding of the CTLA-4 story, in the context of the work of others in the field. Despite the enormous clinical potential associated with modulation of the CTLA-4 pathway, including the use of soluble CTLA-4 molecules in autoimmune settings and blocking antibodies in cancer, it is clear there is still much to learn about this important pathway.


Autoimmunity; CD28; CTLA-4; Costimulation; T-cells; Tolerance

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