Dual immunoregulatory pathways of 4-1BB signaling

J Mol Med (Berl). 2006 Sep;84(9):726-36. doi: 10.1007/s00109-006-0072-2. Epub 2006 Aug 5.


It is perhaps rare to encounter among the various immunologically competent receptor-ligand pairs that a single cell surface determinant unleashes both a hidden suppressive function and costimulation. 4-1BB, an activation-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor family member chiefly viewed as a powerful T-cell costimulatory molecule, is one such example. Accumulated evidence in recent years uncovered an unknown facet of in vivo 4-1BB signaling (i.e., "active suppression"). Although in vitro signaling via 4-1BB is shown to support both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cell responses, the same induces a predominant CD8(+) T-cell response suppressing CD4(+) T-cell function when applied in vivo. How, when, and why such dual immunoregulatory effect of anti-4-1BB monoclonal antibody (MAB) comes into play is currently the focus of intense research. Existing data, although not complete, uncover several important aspects of in vivo 4-1BB signaling in the amelioration or exacerbation of various immune disorders. Despite minor disagreements, a majority agree that upregulation of interferon (IFN)-gamma is critical to anti-4-1BB MAB therapy in addition to immune modulators such as interleukin 2, transforming growth factor beta, and indolamine 2,3-dioxygenase(5), all of which contribute greatly to the success of anti-4-1BB MAB-based immunotherapy. Anti-4-1BB MAB-mediated expansion of novel CD11c(+)CD8(+) T cells is additional weaponry that appears critical for its in vivo suppressive function. These CD11c(+)CD8(+) T cells express high levels of IFN-gamma, become effective killers, and mediate selective suppression of CD4(+) T cells. In this review, we discuss the dual nature (costimulatory and suppressive) of 4-1BB-mediated immune regulation, its current status, future direction, and its impact on the immune system, with special reference to its immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 4-1BB Ligand / immunology*
  • 4-1BB Ligand / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Humans
  • Protein Transport
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • 4-1BB Ligand
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal