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J Immunol. 2005 Sep 1;175(5):3424-30.

NK cells can trigger allograft vasculopathy: the role of hybrid resistance in solid organ allografts.

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  • 1Transplantation and Cardiac Surgical Divisions, Department of Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


Progressive arterial stenosis (cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV)) is a leading cause of long-term failure of organ transplants. CAV remains intractable, in part because its mechanisms are insufficiently understood. A central proposition is that MHC-driven alloimmune processes play a necessary role in CAV, as shown by the absolute requirement for histoincompatibility between donor and recipient for its production. Two immunological pathways have been implicated involving reactivity to donor MHC Ags by either T or B cells. In this study, we use a novel system of semiallogeneic cardiac transplants between parental donors and F1 hybrid recipients to provide evidence that NK cells, members of the innate immune system, also contribute to the generation of CAV in mice. This finding marks the first demonstration that the hybrid resistance phenomenon occurs in solid organ allografts. Extension of these experiments to recipients deficient in T cells demonstrates that this third pathway of CAV, the NK cell-triggered pathway, involves the recruitment of T cells not responsive to donor alloantigens. Finally, transplants performed with donors or recipients deficient in IFN-gamma revealed that recipient-derived IFN-gamma is necessary for CAV formation in parental to F1 transplants, suggesting a possible effector mechanism by which NK cells can promote CAV. Together, these results define a previously unknown pathway toward CAV and assign a novel role to NK cells in organ allograft rejection.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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