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J Immunol. 2002 Feb 15;168(4):2028-34.

Long-term survival of corneal allografts is dependent on intact CD1d-reactive NKT cells.

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Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


BALB/c mice that tolerate the allogeneic grafts develop allogeneic-specific anterior chamber-associated immune deviation. Because CD1d-reactive NKT cells are essential for anterior chamber-associated immune deviation, we postulated that the survival of C57BL/6 (B6) cornea graft in BALB/c mice was also dependent on CD1d-reactive NKT cells. The B6 corneal graft rejection rate in BALB/c vs Jalpha281 knockout (KO) mice, which lack NKT cells, was measured. While there were no difference in the early phase of rejection, the survival rates at 12 wk after grafting for BALB/c and Jalpha281 KO mice were 50 and 0%, respectively. Because anti-CD1d mAb abrogated the corneal graft survival in the wild-type mice we concluded that CD1d-reactive NKT cells were essential for graft survival. Moreover, allospecific T regulatory (Tr) cells correlated with acceptance of B6 grafts in BALB/c mice, and the adoptive transfer of these allospecific Tr cells to Jalpha281 KO mice allowed a 50% survival rate of B6 cornea grafts. In conclusion, CD1d-reactive NKT cells are required for induction of allospecific Tr cells and are essential for survival of corneal allografts. Mechanisms that contribute to cornea graft acceptance may lead to new therapies for improvement in graft survival in high-risk corneas and other transplanted tissues and grafts.

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