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Transplantation. 2000 May 27;69(10):2154-61.

Prolonged allograft survival through conditional and specific ablation of alloreactive T cells expressing a suicide gene.

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Biologie et Thérapeutique des Pathologies Immunitaires, UPMC/CNRS ESA 7087, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France.



Control of antidonor activated T cells involved in allograft rejection while preserving immunocompetence is a challenging goal in transplantation. Engineered T cells expressing a viral thymidine kinase (TK) suicide gene metabolize the nontoxic prodrug ganciclovir (GCV) into a metabolite toxic only to dividing cells. We evaluated this suicide gene strategy for inducing transplantation tolerance in mice.


Transgenic mice expressing TK in mature T cells were analyzed for (i) specific T-cell depletion under GCV treatment upon various stimulations; (ii) outcome of allogeneic nonvascularized skin or heart allografts under a short 14-day GCV treatment initiated at the time of transplantation; and (iii) the capacities of T cells from such allotransplanted mice to proliferate in mixed lymphocyte reactions and to induce graft-versus-host disease in irradiated recipients with the genetic background of the donor allograft.


Upon in vitro or in vivo GCV treatment, only activated dividing TK T cells but not B cells were efficiently depleted. Acute rejection of allogeneic grafts was prevented and a significant prolongation of graft survival was obtained, although associated with signs of chronic rejection. Prolonged skin graft survival correlated with decreased in vitro and in vivo T-cell reactivities against donor alloantigens, whereas overall immunocompetence was preserved.


Efficient and specific depletion of alloreactive TK T cells can be achieved by administrating GCV. These results open new perspectives for the control of allogeneic graft rejection using suicide gene therapy.

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