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J Immunol. 2008 Apr 15;180(8):5177-86.

Development of either split tolerance or robust tolerance along with humoral tolerance to donor and third-party alloantigens in nonmyeloablative mixed chimeras.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Surgical-Medical Research Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Hematopoietic chimerism is considered to generate robust allogeneic tolerance; however, tissue rejection by chimeras can occur. This "split tolerance" can result from immunity toward tissue-specific Ags not expressed by hematopoietic cells. Known to occur in chimeric recipients of skin grafts, it has not often been reported for other donor tissues. Because chimerism is viewed as a potential approach to induce islet transplantation tolerance, we generated mixed bone marrow chimerism in the tolerance-resistant NOD mouse and tested for split tolerance. An unusual multilevel split tolerance developed in NOD chimeras, but not chimeric B6 controls. NOD chimeras demonstrated persistent T cell chimerism but rejected other donor hematopoietic cells, including B cells. NOD chimeras also showed partial donor alloreactivity. Furthermore, NOD chimeras were split tolerant to donor skin transplants and even donor islet transplants, unlike control B6 chimeras. Surprisingly, islet rejection was not a result of autoimmunity, since NOD chimeras did not reject syngeneic islets. Split tolerance was linked to non-MHC genes of the NOD genetic background and was manifested recessively in F(1) studies. Also, NOD chimeras but not B6 chimeras could generate serum alloantibodies, although at greatly reduced levels compared with nonchimeric controls. Surprisingly, the alloantibody response was sufficiently cross-reactive that chimerism-induced humoral tolerance extended to third-party cells. These data identify split tolerance, generated by a tolerance-resistant genetic background, as an important new limitation to the chimerism approach. In contrast, the possibility of humoral tolerance to multiple donors is potentially beneficial.

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