The roles of B7-CD28 family molecules in the regulation of immune responses have been intensively studied over the past decade. The findings resulting from these studies not only broaden our understanding in the control of immune responses at the molecular level, but also lead to identification of molecular targets for future manipulation and potential treatment of human diseases. There is convincing evidence that the B7-CD28 family molecules play critical roles in the control of initiation, progression and pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, which is the focus of this review. Currently, five molecular pathways within this family have been identified and each of them appears to overlap but have distinct functions in the control of priming, activation, maturation and amplification of cellular and humoral immune responses. Rationale-based design of intervention, targeting on multiple pathways should lead to new methods and approaches for management of autoimmune diseases.
Keywords: autoimmunity, b7 family, costimulation, immunotherapy
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