CTLA-4 is constitutively expressed on tumor cells and can trigger apoptosis upon ligand interaction

Elisabetta Contardi, Giulio L. Palmisano, Pier Luigi Tazzari, Alberto M. Martelli, Federica Falà, Marina Fabbi, Tomohiro Kato, Enrico Lucarelli, Davide Donati, Letizia Polito, Andrea Bolognesi, Francesca Ricci, Sandra Salvi, Vittoria Gargaglione, Stefano Mantero, Marco Alberghini, Giovanni Battista Ferrara, Maria Pia Pistillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


CTLA-4 (CD152) is a cell surface receptor that behaves as a negative regulator of the proliferation and the effector function of T cells. We have previously shown that CTLA-4 is also expressed on neoplastic lymphoid and myeloid cells, and it can be targeted to induce apoptosis. In our study, we have extended our analysis and have discovered that surface expression of CTLA-4 is detectable by flow cytometry on 30 of 34 (88%) cell lines derived from a variety of human malignant solid tumors including carcinoma, melanoma, neuroblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma and osteosarcoma (but not in primary osteoblast-like cultures). However, by reverse transcriptase-PCR, CTLA-4 expression was detected in all cell lines. We have also found, by immunohistochemistry, cytoplasmic and surface expression of CTLA-4 in the tumor cells of all 6 osteosarcoma specimens examined and in the tumour cells of all 5 cases (but only weakly or no positivity at all in neighbouring nontumor cells) of ductal breast carcinomas. Treatment of cells from CTLA-4-expressing tumor lines with recombinant forms of the CTLA-4-ligands CD80 and CD86 induced apoptosis associated with sequential activation of caspase-8 and caspase-3. The level of apoptosis was reduced by soluble CTLA-4 and by anti-CTLA-4 scFvs antibodies. The novel finding that CTLA-4 molecule is expressed and functional on human tumor cells opens up the possibility of antitumor therapeutic intervention based on targeting this molecule.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-550
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 20 2005


  • Apoptosis
  • CTLA-4
  • Ligands
  • Tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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