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J Immunol. 2011 Sep 1;187(5):2405-17. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1004175. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Tolerance induced by apoptotic antigen-coupled leukocytes is induced by PD-L1+ and IL-10-producing splenic macrophages and maintained by T regulatory cells.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology-Immunology and Interdepartmental Immunobiology Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Ag-specific tolerance is a highly desired therapy for immune-mediated diseases. Intravenous infusion of protein/peptide Ags linked to syngeneic splenic leukocytes with ethylene carbodiimide (Ag-coupled splenocytes [Ag-SP]) has been demonstrated to be a highly efficient method for inducing peripheral, Ag-specific T cell tolerance for treatment of autoimmune disease. However, little is understood about the mechanisms underlying this therapy. In this study, we show that apoptotic Ag-SP accumulate in the splenic marginal zone, where their uptake by F4/80(+) macrophages induces production of IL-10, which upregulates the expression of the immunomodulatory costimulatory molecule PD-L1 that is essential for Ag-SP tolerance induction. Ag-SP infusion also induces T regulatory cells that are dispensable for tolerance induction but required for long-term tolerance maintenance. Collectively, these results indicate that Ag-SP tolerance recapitulates how tolerance is normally maintained in the hematopoietic compartment and highlight the interplay between the innate and adaptive immune systems in the induction of Ag-SP tolerance. To our knowledge, we show for the first time that tolerance results from the synergistic effects of two distinct mechanisms, PD-L1-dependent T cell-intrinsic unresponsiveness and the activation of T regulatory cells. These findings are particularly relevant as this tolerance protocol is currently being tested in a Phase I/IIa clinical trial in new-onset relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

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