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J Immunol. 2008 Oct 1;181(7):4603-12.

Differential susceptibility of allogeneic targets to indirect CD4 immunity generates split tolerance.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, Surgical-Medical Research Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


CD4 T cells frequently help to activate CD8 T and B cells that effect transplant rejection. However, CD4 T cells alone can reject transplants, either directly or indirectly. The relative effectiveness of indirect CD4 immunity in rejecting different types of allogeneic grafts is unknown. To address this, we used a TCR transgenic mouse model in which indirect CD4 alloimmunity alone can be studied. We challenged transgenic recipients with hematopoietic cells and shortly thereafter skin transplants that could only be rejected indirectly, and observed Ag-specific indirect donor B cell and skin rejection, but not T cell elimination, reflecting a state of split tolerance. Deficiency of indirect CD4 alloimmunity in donor T cell rejection was also apparent when acute indirect rejection of donor islets occurred despite generation and maintenance of mixed T cell chimerism, due to migration of the few passenger T cells into recipient circulation. Although passenger lymphocytes delayed indirect islet rejection, they enhanced rejection by a full repertoire capable of both direct and indirect reactivity. Interestingly, the persistence of chimerism was associated with the eventual development of tolerance, as demonstrated by acceptance of donor skin grafts given late to hematopoietic cell recipients, and hyporesponsiveness of transgenic T cells from islet recipients in vitro. Mechanistically, tolerance was recessive and associated with progressive down-regulation of CD4. Collectively, our data indicate that indirect CD4 immunity is not equally destructive toward different types of allogeneic grafts, the deficiency of which generates split tolerance. The futility of these responses can convert immunity into tolerance.

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