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Blood Rev. 2003 Dec;17(4):187-94.

Immunobiology of acute graft-versus-host disease.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0942, USA.


Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) has been the primary limitation to the wider application of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). The immunobiology of acute GVHD is complex and can be conceptualized to be a three-step process. In step 1, the conditioning regimen (irradiation and/or chemotherapy) leads to the damage and activation of host tissues and induces the secretion of inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-1. As a consequence expression of MHC antigens and adhesion molecules is increased, thus enhancing the recognition of host alloantigens by donor T cells. Donor T-cell activation in step 2 is characterized by donor T-cell interaction with host APCs and subsequent proliferation, differentiation, and secretion of cytokines. Cytokines such as IL-2 and IFN-gamma enhance T-cell expansion, induce cytotoxic T cells (CTL) and natural killer (NK) cell responses, and prime additional mononuclear phagocytes to produce TNF-alpha and IL-1. These inflammatory cytokines in turn stimulate production of inflammatory chemokines, thus recruiting effector cells into target organs. In step 3, effector functions of mononuclear phagocytes are triggered via a secondary signal provided by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) that leaks through the intestinal mucosa damaged during step 1. This mechanism may result in the amplification of local tissue injury and further promotion of an inflammatory response, which, together with the CTL and NK components, leads to target tissue destruction in the transplant host.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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