New developments in allotransplant immunology.
After allogeneic stem cell transplantation, the establishment of the donor's immune system in an antigenically distinct recipient confers a therapeutic graft-versus-malignancy effect, but also causes graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and protracted immune dysfunction. In the last decade, a molecular-level description of alloimmune interactions and the process of immune recovery leading to tolerance has emerged. Here, new developments in understanding alloresponses, genetic factors that modify them, and strategies to control immune reconstitution are described. In Section I, Dr. John Barrett and colleagues describe the cellular and molecular basis of the alloresponse and the mechanisms underlying the three major outcomes of engraftment, GVHD and the graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect. Increasing knowledge of leukemia-restricted antigens suggests ways to separate GVHD and GVL. Recent findings highlight a central role of hematopoietic-derived antigen-presenting cells in the initiation of GVHD and distinct properties of natural killer (NK) cell alloreactivity in engraftment and GVL that are of therapeutic importance. Finally, a detailed map of cellular immune recovery post-transplant is emerging which highlights the importance of post-thymic lymphocytes in determining outcome in the critical first few months following stem cell transplantation. Factors that modify immune reconstitution include immunosuppression, GVHD, the cytokine milieu and poorly-defined homeostatic mechanisms which encourage irregular T cell expansions driven by immunodominant T cell-antigen interactions. In Section II, Prof. Anne Dickinson and colleagues describe genetic polymorphisms outside the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system that determine the nature of immune reconstitution after allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT) and thereby affect transplant outcomethrough GVHD, GVL, and transplant-related mortality. Polymorphisms in cytokine gene promotors and other less characterized genes affect the cytokine milieu of the recipient and the immune reactivity of the donor. Some cytokine gene polymorphisms are significantly associated with transplant outcome. Other non-HLA genes strongly affecting alloresponses code for minor histocompatibility antigens (mHA). Differences between donor and recipient mHA cause GVHD or GVL reactions or graft rejection. Both cytokine gene polymorphisms (CGP) and mHA differences resulting on donor-recipient incompatibilities can be jointly assessed in the skin explant assay as a functional way to select the most suitable donor or the best transplant approach for the recipient. In Section III, Dr. Nelson Chao describes non-pharmaceutical techniques to control immune reconstitution post-transplant. T cells stimulated by host alloantigens can be distinguished from resting T cells by the expression of a variety of activation markers (IL-2 receptor, FAS, CD69, CD71) and by an increased photosensitivity to rhodamine dyes. These differences form the basis for eliminating GVHD-reactive T cells in vitro while conserving GVL and anti-viral immunity. Other attempts to control immune reactions post-transplant include the insertion of suicide genes into the transplanted T cells for effective termination of GVHD reactions, the removal of CD62 ligand expressing cells, and the modulation of T cell reactivity by favoring Th2, Tc2 lymphocyte subset expansion. These technologies could eliminate GVHD while preserving T cell responses to leukemia and reactivating viruses.
Barrett, AJ; Rezvani, K; Solomon, S; Dickinson, AM; Wang, XN; Stark, G; Cullup, H; Jarvis, M; Middleton, PG; Chao, N
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