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Immunol Cell Biol. 2002 Feb;80(1):93-100.

Spontaneous acceptance of liver transplants in rodents: evidence that liver leucocytes induce recipient T-cell death by neglect.

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  • 1AW Morrow Gastroenterology and Liver Laboratory, Centenary Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. a.bishop@centenary.usyd.edu.au


In many animal models transplanted livers are not rejected, even when there is a complete MHC mismatch between the donor and recipient and the recipient is not immunosuppressed. This distinguishes liver transplants from other organs, such as kidneys and hearts, which are rapidly rejected in mismatched individuals. Acceptance of transplanted livers in a rat model is not due to the absence of an immune response to the liver and there is a rapid, abortive response that is ultimately exhausted. Donor leucocytes transferred with the liver appear to be responsible for both liver acceptance and the abortive activation of the recipient's T cells. The immune mechanism of liver transplant acceptance appears to be due to 'death by neglect' in which T cells are activated to express IL-2 and IFN-gamma mRNA in the recipient lymphoid tissues, but not at adequate levels within the graft. Subsequently the activated T cells die leading to specific clonal deletion of liver donor-reactive T cells. These findings have important implications for liver transplant patients as immunosuppressive drugs that are given to prevent rejection can also interfere with this form of tolerance. In addition, it might be possible to modify the immunosuppressive drug treatment of transplant patients to promote the process of death by neglect of recipient alloreactive T cells.

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