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Nat Med. 2005 Dec;11(12):1299-305. Epub 2005 Nov 20.

Host-reactive CD8+ memory stem cells in graft-versus-host disease.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Room 510, Maloney, 3600 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is caused by alloreactive donor T cells that trigger host tissue injury. GVHD develops over weeks or months, but how this immune response is maintained over time is unknown. In mouse models of human GVHD, we identify a new subset of postmitotic CD44(lo)CD62L(hi)CD8(+) T cells that generate and sustain all allogeneic T-cell subsets in GVHD reactions, including central memory, effector memory and effector CD8(+) T cells, while self-renewing. These cells express Sca-1, CD122 and Bcl-2, and induce GVHD upon transfer into secondary recipients. The postmitotic CD44(lo)CD62L(hi)CD8(+) T cells persist throughout the course of GVHD, are generated in the initial phase in response to alloantigens and dendritic cells and require interleukin-15. Thus, their long life, ability to self-renew and multipotentiality define these cells as candidate memory stem cells. Memory stem cells will be important targets for understanding and influencing diverse chronic immune reactions, including GVHD.

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