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Transplantation. 2004 Dec 15;78(11):1634-9.

CD8 lymphocytes are sufficient for the development of chronic rejection.

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Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.



The role of CD8 lymphocytes, in chronic rejection or cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV), is incompletely understood. The purposes of this study were to determine whether CD8 lymphocytes, in the absence of CD4 lymphocytes, are capable of causing the intimal lesions of CAV; and if so, to define the effector mechanism(s) of CD8 lymphocytes.


We modified a previously characterized major histocompatibility complex class II mismatched murine model of CAV. Wild-type CD8 lymphocytes were transferred to nude mice followed by heterotopic heart transplantation. Recipient mice were then treated with a CD40 activating antibody, which is known to provide help for CD8 lymphocyte activation, in the absence of CD4 lymphocytes. Donor hearts were harvested on day 40 posttransplantation and analyzed for cellular infiltrates and intimal thickening. In separate experiments, isolated perforin -/-, Fas ligand (FasL) -/-, and interferon (IFN)-gamma -/- CD8 lymphocytes were transferred to nude mice followed by identical experimented protocol.


With adaptive transfer of wild-type CD8 lymphocytes, the donor hearts were infiltrated with activated CD8 lymphocytes and displayed significant intimal lesions. Adoptive transfer of perforin -/- and FasL -/- CD8 lymphocytes to nude mice resulted in similar patterns of CD8 lymphocyte infiltration and similar severity of intimal lesions. The donor hearts from IFN-gamma -/- CD8 lymphocyte reconstituted recipients displayed minimal intimal lesions, although CD8 lymphocytes were present in the allografts.


Unprimed CD8 lymphocytes in the absence of CD4 lymphocytes can cause intimal lesions of CAV. CD8 lymphocytes production of IFN-gamma, but not the perforin or the FasL-mediated cytotoxicity, is the critical step in the development of intimal lesions.

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