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Transplantation. 2003 Aug 15;76(3):449-55.

Pretransplant blood transfusion without additional immunotherapy generates CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cells: a potential explanation for the blood-transfusion effect.

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Nuffield Department of Surgery, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom.



Preoperative blood transfusion has had a significant historic impact on graft outcome in clinical kidney transplantation, and the effect has been widely replicated in many experimental transplant models. Although the mechanisms underlying the blood-transfusion effect are poorly understood, one possibility is that preexposure to alloantigen results in the induction of regulatory cells with the capacity to control the effector arm of the immune response.


Recent studies in autoimmune models have shown that T cells with regulatory function can be isolated from unmanipulated animals on the basis of CD25 expression, and we have recently shown that pretreatment of recipient mice with donor alloantigen combined with anti-CD4 antibody therapy generates CD25+CD4+ T cells that can prevent graft rejection. We therefore used this sensitive adoptive transfer mouse model to ask whether blood transfusion in the absence of any other treatment can also lead to the generation of alloreactive CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cells.


Although a single donor-specific transfusion (DST) fails to induce dominant regulation, we demonstrate that pretreatment with multiple DSTs generates CD25+CD4+ T cells that are as effective as those that result from blood transfusion under anti-CD4 antibody cover. More importantly, our results show that these cells also develop following multiple transfusions of unrelated (random) blood.


These results provide a basis for understanding the blood-transfusion effect in transplantation and, by providing a link between naturally occurring regulatory cells and those induced by alloantigen, may shed new light on the fundamental basis of the effect itself.

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