The Complement Receptors C3aR and C5aR Are a New Class of Immune Checkpoint Receptor in Cancer Immunotherapy

Front Immunol. 2019 Jul 19:10:1574. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01574. eCollection 2019.


Cancer immunotherapy has made remarkable clinical advances in recent years. Antibodies targeting the immune checkpoint receptors PD-1 and CTLA-4 and adoptive cell therapy (ACT) based on ex vivo expanded peripheral CTLs, tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), gene-engineered TCR- and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells have all shown durable clinical efficacies in multiple types of cancers. However, these immunotherapeutic approaches only benefit a small fraction of cancer patients as various immune resistance mechanisms and limitations make their effective use a challenge in the majority of cancer patients. For example, adaptive resistance to therapeutic PD-1 blockade is associated with an upregulation of some additional immune checkpoint receptors. The efficacy of transferred tumor-specific T cells under the current clinical ACT protocol is often limited by their inefficient engraftment, poor persistence, and weak capability to attack tumor cells. Recent studies demonstrate that the complement receptor C3aR and C5aR function as a new class of immune checkpoint receptors. Complement signaling through C3aR and C5aR expressed on effector T lymphocytes prevent the production of the cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10). Removing C3aR/C5aR-mediated transcriptional suppression of IL-10 expression results in endogenous IL-10 production by antitumor effector T cells, which drives T cell expansion and enhances T cell-mediated antitumor immunity. Importantly, preclinical, and clinical data suggest that a signaling axis consisting of complement/C3aR/C5aR/IL-10 critically regulates T cell mediated antitumor immunity and manipulation of the pathway ex vivo and in vivo is an effective strategy for cancer immunotherapy. Furthermore, a combination of treatment strategies targeting the complement/C3aR/C5aR/IL-10 pathway with other treatment modalities may improve cancer therapeutic efficacy.

Keywords: IL-10 (interleukin-10); PD-1 - PDL-1 axis; cancer immuno therapy; complement; complement receptor C3aR; complement receptor C5aR; immune check point.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a / immunology*
  • Receptors, Complement / immunology*


  • IL10 protein, human
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a
  • Receptors, Complement
  • complement C3a receptor
  • Interleukin-10