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Blood. 2004 Aug 1;104(3):873-80. Epub 2004 Mar 30.

Matching at the MHC class I K locus is essential for long-term engraftment of purified hematopoietic stem cells: a role for host NK cells in regulating HSC engraftment.

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Institute for Cellular Therapeutics and the Department of Surgery, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA.


The events that regulate engraftment and long-term repopulating ability of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) after transplantation are not well defined. We report for the first time that major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I K plays a critical role in HSC engraftment via interaction with recipient natural killer (NK) cells. Durable engraftment of purified HSCs requires MHC class I K matching between HSC donor and recipient. In the absence of MHC class I K matching, HSCs exhibit impaired long-term engraftment (P =.01). Dependence on MHC class I K matching is eliminated in B6 beige mice that lack NK cell function, as well as in wild-type mice depleted of NK cells, implicating a possible regulatory role of NK cells for HSC engraftment. The coadministration of CD8+/T-cell receptor-negative (TCR-) graft facilitating cells (FCs) matched at MHC class I K to the HSC donor overcomes the requirement for MHC class I K matching between HSCs and recipient. These data demonstrate that FCs inhibit NK cell effects on the HSCs. Notably, FCs do not suppress the cytotoxic activity of activated NK cells. Enhanced green fluorescent protein-positive (EGFP+) FCs persist for one month following allogeneic transplantation, making cold target inhibition an unlikely mechanism. Therefore, MHC class I may play a critical role in the initiating events that dictate HSC engraftment and/or NK-mediated rejection following allogeneic transplantation.

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