The inhibitory cosignaling pathway formed between the TNF receptor herpesvirus entry mediator (HVEM, TNFRSF14) and the Ig superfamily members, B and T lymphocyte attenuator (BTLA) and CD160, limits the activation of T cells. However, BTLA and CD160 can also serve as activating ligands for HVEM when presented in trans by adjacent cells, thus forming a bidirectional signaling pathway. BTLA and CD160 can directly activate the HVEM-dependent NF-kappaB RelA transcriptional complex raising the question of how NF-kappaB activation is repressed in naive T cells. In this study, we show BTLA interacts with HVEM in cis, forming a heterodimeric complex in naive T cells that inhibits HVEM-dependent NF-kappaB activation. The cis-interaction between HVEM and BTLA is the predominant form expressed on the surface of naive human and mouse T cells. The BTLA ectodomain acts as a competitive inhibitor blocking BTLA and CD160 from binding in trans to HVEM and initiating NF-kappaB activation. The TNF-related ligand, LIGHT (homologous to lymphotoxins, exhibits inducible expression, and competes with HSV glycoprotein D for HVEM, a receptor expressed by T lymphocytes, or TNFSF14) binds HVEM in the cis-complex, but NF-kappaB activation was attenuated, suggesting BTLA prevents oligomerization of HVEM in the cis-complex. Genetic deletion of BTLA or pharmacologic disruption of the HVEM-BTLA cis-complex in T cells promoted HVEM activation in trans. Interestingly, herpes simplex virus envelope glycoprotein D formed a cis-complex with HVEM, yet surprisingly, promoted the activation NF-kappaB RelA. We suggest that the HVEM-BTLA cis-complex competitively inhibits HVEM activation by ligands expressed in the surrounding microenvironment, thus helping maintain T cells in the naive state.
Cheung, T. C., Oborne, L. M., Steinberg, M. W., Macauley, M. G., Fukuyama, S., Sanjo, H., … Ware, C. F. (2009). T Cell Intrinsic Heterodimeric Complexes between HVEM and BTLA Determine Receptivity to the Surrounding Microenvironment. The Journal of Immunology, 183(11), 7286–7296. https://doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.0902490