Tolerogenic interactions between CD8+ dendritic cells and NKT cells prevent rejection of bone marrow and organ grafts

David Hongo, Xiaobin Tang, Xiangyue Zhang, Edgar G. Engleman and Samuel Strober

Key Points

  • Tolerance after bone marrow transplantation requires CD8+ DCs and NKT-cell interaction.

  • CD8+ DCs and NKT cells become tolerogenic after conditioning with total lymphoid irradiation.


The combination of total lymphoid irradiation and anti-T-cell antibodies safely induces immune tolerance to combined hematopoietic cell and organ allografts in humans. Our mouse model required host natural killer T (NKT) cells to induce tolerance. Because NKT cells normally depend on signals from CD8+ dendritic cells (DCs) for their activation, we used the mouse model to test the hypothesis that, after lymphoid irradiation, host CD8+ DCs play a requisite role in tolerance induction through interactions with NKT cells. Selective deficiency of either CD8+ DCs or NKT cells abrogated chimerism and organ graft acceptance. After radiation, the CD8+ DCs increased expression of surface molecules required for NKT and apoptotic cell interactions and developed suppressive immune functions, including production of indoleamine 2,3-deoxygenase. Injection of naive mice with apoptotic spleen cells generated by irradiation led to DC changes similar to those induced by lymphoid radiation, suggesting that apoptotic body ingestion by CD8+ DCs initiates tolerance induction. Tolerogenic CD8+ DCs induced the development of tolerogenic NKT cells with a marked T helper 2 cell bias that, in turn, regulated the differentiation of the DCs and suppressed rejection of the transplants. Thus, reciprocal interactions between CD8+ DCs and invariant NKT cells are required for tolerance induction in this system that was translated into a successful clinical protocol.

  • Submitted July 18, 2016.
  • Accepted January 5, 2017.
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