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Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2011 Jun;17(6):800-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2010.12.711. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

Alloreactivity across HLA barriers is mediated by both naïve and antigen-experienced T cells.

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Hematology Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1202, USA.


T cell responses to allogeneic targets arise predominantly from the naïve pool. However, in humans, the risk of graft-versus-host disease is increased if the donor has circulating T cells recognizing multiple persistent DNA viruses, suggesting that memory T cells also contribute to the alloresponse. To examine HLA alloreactivity, we used flow cytometry-based proliferation and cytokine production assays. We identified the clonal identity of virus-specific T cells cross-reacting with HLA-disparate targets by sequencing the T cell receptor β chains in virus-specific T cell lines restimulated with cognate and HLA-disparate targets and sorting these chains according to cytokine response. We confirmed that naïve T cells from cord blood and adult individuals responded to HLA-mismatched target cells. In addition, in adults, we identified memory T cells responding by cytokine release to HLA-mismatched targets both in direct assays and after 8 days of culture with allogeneic stimulator cells. Epstein-Barr virus-specific and cytomegalovirus-specific T cells, tested against a panel of 30 T cell antigen-presenting cells with a broad coverage of the most prominent HLA types, displayed specificity for certain mismatched HLA alleles. Sequencing of the T cell receptor β chain demonstrated a clonotypic identity of cells that responded to both viral and allogeneic stimulation. These findings show conclusively that alloresponses in humans are not confined to the naïve T cell subset, and that memory viral antigen-specific T cells can cross-react with specific mismatched HLA-peptide complexes not presenting with cytomegalovirus or Epstein-Barr virus peptides.

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