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Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2012 Jan;18(1):44-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bbmt.2011.09.004. Epub 2011 Sep 28.

Host CD25+CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells primed by anti-CD137 mAbs inhibit graft-versus-host disease.

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Biomedical Research Center, Ulsan University Hospital, School of Medicine, University of Ulsan, Korea.


CD25(+)CD4(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a pivotal role in the maintenance of self-tolerance and regulation of immune responses. Previous studies have demonstrated that CD137 signals can promote proliferation and survival of Tregs in vitro. Here, we show that in vivo CD137-induced expansion of Tregs in naive mice was dependent upon IL-2 secreted by memory T cells. Tregs primed by anti-CD137 mAbs had a higher immunosuppressive capacity. Preconditioning with anti-CD137 mAbs significantly inhibited graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in the C57BL/6 → (C57BL/6 × DBA/2) F1 acute GVHD model. In this disease model, a high proportion of host Tregs remained long-term in the recipient spleen, whereas donor hematopoietic cells replaced other host bone marrow-derived cells. Transient depletion of Tregs before transfer of donor cells completely abrogated the inhibitory effect of anti-CD137 mAbs on GVHD. In addition, adoptive transfer of anti-CD137-primed Tregs ameliorated GVHD. Our results demonstrate that it is possible to enhance the survival and/or the immunosuppressive activity of host Tregs in nonmyeloablative GVHD, and that 1 way of accomplishing this is through the prophylactic use of anti-CD137 mAbs in nonmyeloablative GVHD.

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