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T cell activation is tightly regulated by both stimulatory and inhibitory co-receptors and has been a focus in the development of interventions for managing cancer or autoimmune diseases. Targeting the inhibitory co-receptors programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) and cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) has successfully eradicated tumors but induced immune-related adverse events in humans and mice. The beneficial and adverse effects of targeting these co-receptors highlight their importance in cancer immunity and also autoimmunity. Although the therapeutic potencies of other inhibitory co-receptors are under extensive investigation, their inhibitory mechanisms and their functional differences are not well understood. Here we analyzed the inhibitory mechanisms of lymphocyte activation gene-3 (LAG-3), another inhibitory co-receptor, by using an in vitro T cell activation system and a high-affinity anti-LAG-3 antibody that strongly interferes with the binding of LAG-3 to its ligand. We found that the expression level of LAG-3 strongly correlates with the inhibitory function of LAG-3, suggesting that LAG-3 functions as a rheostat rather than as a breaker of T cell activation. By evaluating the inhibitory capacities of various LAG-3 variants relative to their expression levels, we found that LAG-3 transduces two independent inhibitory signals through an FXXL motif in the membrane-proximal region and the C-terminal EX repeat. These motifs have not been reported previously for inhibitory co-receptors, suggesting that LAG-3 inhibits T cell activation through a nonredundant inhibitory mechanisms along with the other inhibitory co-receptors. Our findings provide a rationale for combinatorial targeting of LAG-3 and the other inhibitory co-receptors to improve cancer immunotherapy. © 2019 Maeda et al.


Takeo K Maeda, Daisuke Sugiura, Il-Mi Okazaki, Takumi Maruhashi, Taku Okazaki. Atypical motifs in the cytoplasmic region of the inhibitory immune co-receptor LAG-3 inhibit T cell activation. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2019 Apr 12;294(15):6017-6026

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PMID: 30760527

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