Institute of Immunity and Transplantation


NK T-cell lymphoma


Walker lab make important immune system regulator discovery

5 June 2019

Researchers at the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation (IIT) have made an important discovery about how a natural regulator of the immune system works.

Crystal structure of CTLA4

In an article published in Science Immunology, Professor Lucy Walker’s team have discovered which type of immune cell is controlled by the important regulatory molecule CTLA-4.

CTLA-4 is a critical molecule for regulating immune responses. Antibodies to block CTLA-4 function are used in cancer immunotherapy to increase immune responses against tumours. It was the first immune “checkpoint” to be identified.

Immune cells use CTLA-4 to regulate the behaviour of other immune cells – but until now we didn’t know the identity of these cells.

We have now shown that a particular type of immune cell, a subset of dendritic cells, is the target for CTLA4’s immunoregulatory activity.

Professor Walker said: “This discovery gives us a new level of understanding about how this important molecule, CTLA-4, regulates the immune system. CTLA-4 is working inside us all the time to prevent us getting autoimmune diseases, so it’s a key molecule to understand.  It’s also targeted by immunotherapy drugs so the more detail we have on how it works, the better we can deploy these drugs.”