The characterization of the receptors negatively modulating lymphocyte function is rapidly advancing, driven by success in tumor immunotherapy. As a result, the number of immune checkpoint receptors characterized from a functional perspective and targeted by innovative drugs continues to expand. This review focuses on the less explored area of the signaling mechanisms of these receptors, of those expressed in T cells. Studies conducted mainly on PD-1, CTLA-4, and BTLA have evidenced that the extracellular parts of some of the receptors act as decoy receptors for activating ligands, but in all instances, the tyrosine phosphorylation of their cytoplasmatic tail drives a crucial inhibitory signal. This negative signal is mediated by a few key signal transducers, such as tyrosine phosphatase, inositol phosphatase, and diacylglycerol kinase, which allows them to counteract TCR-mediated activation. The characterization of these signaling pathways is of great interest in the development of therapies for counteracting tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte exhaustion/anergy independently from the receptors involved.
Keywords: DGK; ITIM; ITSM; PDL-1; SHIP; SHP-1; SHP-2; SLAM; Src.