Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

4-1BB ligand signaling to T cells limits T cell activation.

PMID 25404362


4-1BB ligand (4-1BBL) and its receptor, 4-1BB, are both induced on T cells after activation, but little is known about the role of 4-1BBL. In this study we show that 4-1BBL can transmit signals that limit T cell effector activity under tolerogenic conditions. Cross-linking 4-1BBL inhibited IL-2 production in vitro, primarily with suboptimal TCR stimulation. Furthermore, naive 4-1BBL-deficient OT-II transgenic T cells displayed a greater conversion to effector T cells in vivo when responding to soluble OVA peptide in wild-type hosts, whereas development of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells was not altered. A greater number of effector T cells also differentiated from naive wild-type OT-II T cells when transferred into 4-1BB-deficient hosts, suggesting that APC-derived 4-1BB is likely to trigger 4-1BBL. Indeed, effector T cells that could not express 4-1BBL accumulated in larger numbers in vitro when stimulated with 4-1BB-expressing mesenteric lymph node dendritic cells. 4-1BBL was expressed on T cells when Ag presentation was limiting, and 4-1BBL was aberrantly expressed at very high levels on T cells that could not express 4-1BB. Trans-ligation, Ab capture, and endocytosis experiments additionally showed that T cell-intrinsic 4-1BB regulated internalization of membrane 4-1BBL, implying that the strong induction of 4-1BB on T cells may counteract the suppressive function of 4-1BBL by limiting its availability. These data suggest that 4-1BBL expressed on T cells can restrain effector T cell development, creating a more favorable regulatory T cell to effector cell balance under tolerogenic conditions, and this may be particularly active in mucosal barrier tissues where 4-1BB-expressing regulatory dendritic cells present Ag.