Graft-versus-host disease targets ovary and causes female infertility in mice

Sonoko Shimoji, Daigo Hashimoto, Hidetsugu Tsujigiwa, Kohta Miyawaki, Koji Kato, Shuichiro Takahashi, Reiki Ogasawara, Takashi Jiromaru, Hiromi Iwasaki, Toshihiro Miyamoto, Koichi Akashi and Takanori Teshima

Key Points

  • GVHD mediates donor T-cell infiltration and apoptosis of the ovarian follicle cells, leading to ovarian insufficiency and infertility.

  • Ovarian insufficiency and infertility are independent of conditioning, and pharmacologic GVHD prophylaxis preserves fertility.

Publisher's Note: There is an Inside Blood Commentary on this article in this issue.


Infertility associated with ovarian failure is a serious late complication for female survivors of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (SCT). Although pretransplant conditioning regimen has been appreciated as a cause of ovarian failure, increased application of reduced-intensity conditioning allowed us to revisit other factors possibly affecting ovarian function after allogeneic SCT. We have addressed whether donor T-cell-mediated graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) could be causally related to female infertility in mice. Histological evaluation of the ovaries after SCT demonstrated donor T-cell infiltration in close proximity to apoptotic granulosa cells in the ovarian follicles, resulting in impaired follicular hormone production and maturation of ovarian follicles. Mating experiments showed that female recipients of allogeneic SCT deliver significantly fewer newborns than recipients of syngeneic SCT. GVHD-mediated ovary insufficiency and infertility were independent of conditioning. Pharmacologic GVHD prophylaxis protected the ovary from GVHD and preserved fertility. These results demonstrate for the first time that GVHD targets the ovary and impairs ovarian function and fertility and has important clinical implications in young female transplant recipients with nonmalignant diseases, in whom minimally toxic regimens are used.

  • Submitted July 14, 2016.
  • Accepted November 20, 2016.
View Full Text