The mechanism of action of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) remains surprisingly unclear. Regulatory T (Treg) cells can use CTLA-4 to elicit suppression; however, CTLA-4 also operates in conventional T cells, reputedly by triggering inhibitory signals. Recently, interactions mediated via the CTLA-4 cytoplasmic domain have been shown to preferentially affect Treg cells, yet other evidence suggests that the extracellular domain of CTLA-4 is sufficient to elicit suppression. Here, we discuss these paradoxical findings in the context of CTLA-4-mediated ligand regulation. We propose that the function of CTLA-4 cytoplasmic domain is not to transmit inhibitory signals but to precisely control the turnover, cellular location, and membrane delivery of CTLA-4 to facilitate its central function: regulating the access of CD28 to their shared ligands.
Walker, L. S. K., & Sansom, D. M. (2015, February 1). Confusing signals: Recent progress in CTLA-4 biology. Trends in Immunology. Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.it.2014.12.001