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Blood. 2011 Dec 8;118(24):6426-37. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-06-358747. Epub 2011 Sep 30.

Mechanisms of antigen presentation to T cells in murine graft-versus-host disease: cross-presentation and the appearance of cross-presentation.

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Cancer Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Recipient antigen-presenting cells (APCs) initiate GVHD by directly presenting host minor histocompatibility antigens (miHAs) to donor CD8 cells. However, later after transplantation, host APCs are replaced by donor APCs, and if pathogenic CD8 cells continue to require APC stimulation, then donor APCs must cross-present host miHAs. Consistent with this, CD8-mediated GVHD is reduced when donor APCs are MHC class I(-). To study cross-presentation, we used hosts that express defined MHC class I K(b)-restricted miHAs, crossed to K(b)-deficient backgrounds, such that these antigens cannot be directly presented. Cross-priming was surprisingly efficient, whether antigen was restricted to the hematopoietic or nonhematopoietic compartments. Cross-primed CD8 cells were cytolytic and produced IFN-γ. CD8 cells were exclusively primed by donor CD11c(+) cells, and optimal cross-priming required that they are stimulated by both type I IFNs and CD40L. In studying which donor APCs acquire host miHAs, we made the surprising discovery that there was a large-scale transfer of transmembrane proteins from irradiated hosts, including MHC class I-peptide complexes, to donor cells, including dendritic cells. Donor dendritic cells that acquired host MHC class I-peptide complexes were potent stimulators of peptide-specific T cells. These studies identify new therapeutic targets for GVHD treatment and a novel mechanism whereby donor APCs prime host-reactive T cells.

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