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Blood. 2012 Jun 28;119(26):6354-64. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-01-401596. Epub 2012 Apr 10.

Emergence of T cells that recognize nonpolymorphic antigens during graft-versus- host disease.

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Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.


Chronic GVHD is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in allogeneic stem cell transplantation recipients and typically develops from antecedent acute GVHD. In contrast to acute GVHD, chronic GVHD has much broader tissue involvement and clinical manifestations that bear striking similarity to what is observed in autoimmune diseases. How autoimmunity arises out of alloimmunity has been a longstanding unresolved issue. To address this question, in the present study, we performed a comprehensive analysis of the clonotypic T-cell response using complementary murine models that simulate what occurs during the transition from acute to chronic GVHD. These studies revealed repertoire skewing and the presence of high-frequency clonotypes that had undergone significant in vivo expansion, indicating that GVHD-associated autoimmunity was characterized by antigen-driven expansion of a limited number of T-cell clones. Furthermore, we observed that T cells with identical TCRβ CDR3 nucleotide sequences were capable of recognizing donor and host antigens, providing evidence that the loss of self-tolerance during acute GVHD leads to the emergence of self-reactive donor T cells that are capable of recognizing nonpolymorphic tissue or commensally derived antigens. These data provide a mechanistic framework for how autoimmunity develops within the context of preexisting GVHD and provide additional insight into the pathophysiology of chronic GVHD.

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