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Transplantation. 2000 Mar 27;69(6):1176-85.

Pancreatic islet xenograft tolerance after short-term costimulation blockade is associated with increased CD4+ T cell apoptosis but not immune deviation.

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National Pancreas Transplant Unit, University of Sydney at Westmead Hospital, NSW, Australia.



Our purpose was to determine if short-term inhibition of the CD40/CD40L and CD28/B7 costimulatory pathways was capable of inducing specific unresponsiveness to pancreatic islet xenografts and to ascertain the mechanism of tolerance induction.


Diabetic B6AF1 mice were transplanted with Wistar or DA rat islets and were treated short term with CTLA4-Fc and anti-CD40L mAb (MR1).


Coadministration of CTLA4-Fc with MR1, resulted in indefinite rat islet xenograft survival in mice. Tolerance was species but not strain specific as long-term surviving recipients rejected third party BALB/c islet allografts but accepted a second rat islet xenograft from the same or different donor strain. Tolerance induction was associated with a large leukocyte infiltrate that did not exhibit features of immune deviation as intragraft T cell-specific cytokine gene expression was globally reduced. In particular, interleukin-4 gene expression was markedly suppressed. There was a complete inhibition of anti-donor IgG, IgG1, and IgM antibody in the serum of CTLA4-Fc/MR1- treated animals. Tolerance induction was associated with increased CD4+ T cell apoptosis as there was an increased proportion of annexin-V staining and Fas expressing CD4+ T cells and a decrease in CD4+ T cell Bcl-2 expression in the grafts and draining lymph nodes of CTLA4-Fc/MR1-treated recipients.


Combined costimulatory blockade was capable of producing tolerance to pancreatic islet xenografts. The induction of this tolerant state was associated with increased T cell apoptosis, whereas the maintenance phase of tolerance was associated with the accumulation of a large number of inactive lymphocytes within the graft.

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