Bidirectional immune tolerance in nonmyeloablative MHC-mismatched BMT for murine β-thalassemia

Shuyu E, Aman Seth, Peter Vogel, Matt Sommers, Taren Ong and Asha B. Pillai

Key Points

  • TLI/ATS/alkylator conditioning allows engraftment without GVHD after curative MHC-mismatched BMT for murine β-thalassemia.

  • Recipient MDSCs generated in TLI/ATS/alkylator nonmyeloablative conditioning facilitate donor Treg recovery and graft-versus-host tolerance.


Nonmyeloablative conditioning using total lymphoid irradiation (TLI) and rabbit antithymocyte serum (ATS) (the murine preclinical equivalent of antithymocyte globulin [ATG]) facilitates immune tolerance after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) across major histocompatibility complex (MHC) disparities and may be a useful strategy for nonmalignant disorders. We previously reported that donor effector T-cell function and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) are regulated via recipient invariant natural killer T-cell (iNKT) interleukin-4–driven expansion of donor Foxp3+ naturally occurring regulatory T cells (Tregs). This occurs via recipient iNKT- and STAT6-dependent expansion of recipient myeloid dendritic cells (MDCs) that induce contact-dependent expansion of donor Treg through PD-1/PD ligand signaling. After TLI/ATS + BMT, Gr-1lowCD11c+ MDCs and Gr-1highCD11cneg myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) were enriched in GVHD target organs. We now report that the recovery of both recipient MDSCs (P < .01) and MDCs (P < .01) is significantly increased when the alkylator cyclophosphamide (CTX) is added to TLI/ATS conditioning. In a BALB/c → B6 lethal GVHD model, adoptive transfer of MDSCs from TLI/ATS/CTX-conditioned recipients is associated with significantly improved GVHD colitis and survival (P < .001), conversion of MDSCs to PD ligand–expressing MDCs, and increased donor naturally occurring Treg recovery (P < .01) compared with control treatment. Using BALB/c donors and β-thalassemic HW-80 recipients, we found significantly improved rates of engraftment and GVHD following TLI/ATS/CTX compared with TLI/ATS, lethal or sublethal total body irradiation/ATS/CTX, or CTX/ATS conditioning. These data provide preclinical support for trials of TLI/ATG/alkylator regimens for MHC-mismatched BMT for hemoglobinopathies. The data also delineate innate immune mechanisms by which TLI/ATS/CTX conditioning may augment transplantation tolerance.

  • Submitted March 14, 2016.
  • Accepted February 28, 2017.
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