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Diabetes. 2001 Jul;50(7):1546-52.

Indirect allorecognition in acquired thymic tolerance: induction of donor-specific permanent acceptance of rat islets by adoptive transfer of allopeptide-pulsed host myeloid and thymic dendritic cells.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 630 W. 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Pancreatic islet transplantation remains a promising approach to the treatment of type 1 diabetes. Unfortunately, graft failure continues to occur because of immunologic rejection, despite the use of potent immunosuppressive agents. It is therefore reasoned that induction of peripheral tolerance by the use of self-dendritic cells (DCs) as a vehicle to deliver specific target antigens to self-T-cells without ex vivo manipulation of the recipient is an attractive strategy in the treatment of type 1 diabetes. The finding that intrathymic inoculation of an immunodominant WF major histocompatibility complex (MHC) Class I (RT1.A(u)) peptide five (P5) or P5-pulsed host myeloid DCs induces acquired thymic tolerance raises the possibility that adoptive transfer of allopeptide-primed host myeloid or lymphoid DCs might induce transplant tolerance. To address this hypothesis, we studied the effects of intravenous transfer of in vitro P5-pulsed syngeneic myeloid DCs or in vivo P5-primed syngeneic lymphoid (thymic) DCs on islet survival in the WF-to-ACI rat combination. In vivo primed thymic DCs isolated from ACI rats given intrathymic inoculation of P5 for 2 days were capable of in vitro restimulation of in vivo P5-primed T-cells (memory cells). In the first series of studies, we showed that intravenous-like intrathymic-inoculation of in vitro P5-pulsed host myeloid DCs induced donor-specific permanent acceptance of islets in recipients transiently immunosuppressed with antilymphocyte serum (ALS). We next examined whether thymic DCs isolated from animals that had been previously intrathymically inoculated with P5 could induce T-cell tolerance. The results showed that intravenous adoptive transfer of in vivo P5-primed thymic DCs led to donor-specific permanent acceptance of islets in recipients transiently immunosuppressed with ALS. This finding suggested that the thymic DCs take up and present P5 to developing T-cells to induce T-cell tolerance, thus providing evidence of a direct link between indirect allorecognition and acquired thymic tolerance. The second series of studies examined the mechanisms involved in this model by exploring whether in vivo generation of peptide-specific alloreactive peripheral T-cells by intravenous inoculation of P5-pulsed self-DCs was responsible for the induction of T-cell tolerance. Intrathymic inoculation of splenic T-cells obtained from syngeneic ACI rats primed with intravenous injection of P5-pulsed DCs with a high in vitro proliferative response to P5 in the context of self-MHC induced donor-specific permanent acceptance of islets from WF donors. In addition, the clinically relevant model of intravenous injection of P5-activated T-cells combined with transient ALS immunosuppression similarly induced transplant tolerance, which was then abrogated by thymectomy of the recipient before intravenous injection of the activated T-cells. These data raise the possibility that circulation of peptide-activated T-cells to the host thymus plays a role in the induction and possibly the maintenance of T-cell tolerance in this model. Our findings suggest that intravenous administration of genetically engineered host DCs expressing alloMHC peptides might have therapeutic potential in clinical islet transplantation for the treatment of autoimmune diabetes.

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