Targeting the B7 family of co-stimulatory molecules: Successes and challenges

Joseph R. Podojil, Stephen D. Miller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


As more patient data is cross-referenced with animal models of disease, the primary focus on Th1 autoreactive effector cell function in autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, has shifted towards the role of Th17 autoreactive effector cells and the ability of regulatory T cells (Treg) to modulate the pro-inflammatory autoimmune response. Therefore, the currently favored hypothesis is that a delicate balance between Th1/17 effector cells and Treg cell function is critical in the regulation of inflammatory autoimmune disease. An intensive area of research with regard to the Th1/17:T reg cell balance is the utilization of blockade and/or ligation of various co-stimulatory or co-inhibitory molecules, respectively, during ongoing disease to skew the immune response toward a more tolerogenic/regulatory state. Currently, FDA-approved therapies for multiple sclerosis patients are all aimed at the suppression of immune cell function. The other favored method of treatment is a modulation or deletion of autoreactive immune cells via short-term blockade of activating co-stimulatory receptors via treatment with fusion proteins such as CTLA4-Ig and CTLA4-FasL. Based on the initial success of CTLA4-Ig, there are additional fusion proteins that are currently under development. Examples of the more recently identified B7/CD28 family members are PD-L1, PD-L2, inducible co-stimulatory molecule-ligand (ICOS-L), B7-H3, and B7-H4, all of which may emerge as potential fusion protein therapeutics, each with unique, yet often overlapping functions. The expression of both stimulatory and inhibitory B7 molecules seems to play an essential role in modulating immune cell function through a variety of mechanisms, which is supported by findings that suggest each B7 molecule has developed its own indispensable niche in the immune system. As more data are generated, the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of the above B7 family-member-derived fusion proteins becomes ever more apparent. Besides defining the biology of these B7/CD28 family members in vivo, additional difficulty in the development of these therapies lies in maintaining the normal immune functions of recognition and reaction to non-self-antigens following viral or bacterial infection in the patient. Further complicating the clinical translation of these therapies, the mechanism of action identified for a particular reagent may depend upon the method of immune-cell activation and the subset of immune cells targeted in the study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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