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J Immunol. 2004 Jun 15;172(12):7393-8.

Host dendritic cells alone are sufficient to initiate acute graft-versus-host disease.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Alloantigen expression on host APCs is essential to initiate graft-vs-host disease (GVHD); however, critical APC subset remains to be elucidated. We compared the ability of dendritic cells (DCs) and B cells to initiate acute GVHD by an add-back study of MHC class II-expressing APCs (II(+/+)) into MHC class II-deficient (II(-/-)) mice that were resistant to CD4-dependent GVHD. Injection of host-derived, but not donor-derived, II(+/+) DCs or host-derived II(+/+) B cells, was sufficient to break GVHD resistance of II(-/-) mice and induced lethal acute GVHD. By contrast, host-derived II(+/+) B cells, both naive and LPS stimulated, failed to induce activation or tolerance of donor CD4(+) T cells. Similarly, in a model of CD8-dependent GVHD across MHC class I mismatch injection of allogeneic DCs, but not B cells, induced robust proliferation of donor CD8(+) T cells and broke GVHD resistance of chimeric recipients in which APCs were syngeneic to donors. These results demonstrate that host-derived DCs are critical in priming donor CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells to cause GVHD, and selective targeting of host DCs may be a promising strategy to prevent GVHD.

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