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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e38252. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038252. Epub 2012 May 30.

Shift of graft-versus-host-disease target organ tropism by dietary vitamin A.

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Institute of Immunology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.


Gut-homing of donor T cells is causative for the development of intestinal GvHD in recipients of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Expression of the gut-specific homing receptors integrin-α4β7 and chemokine receptor CCR9 on T cells is imprinted in gut-associated lymphoid tissues (GALT) under the influence of the vitamin A metabolite retinoic acid. Here we addressed the role of vitamin A deficiency in HSCT-recipients for donor T cell migration in the course of experimental GvHD. Vitamin A-deficient (VAD) mice were prepared by feeding them a vitamin A-depleted diet. Experiments were performed in a C57BL/6 into BALB/c model of acute GvHD. We found that expression of integrin-α4β7 and CCR9 in GALT was reduced in VAD recipients after HSCT. Competitive in vivo homing assays showed that allogeneic T cells primed in VAD mice did not home as efficiently to the intestine as T cells primed in mice fed with standard diet (STD). The course of GvHD was ameliorated in VAD HSCT-recipients and, consequently, their survival was prolonged compared to recipients receiving STD. However, VAD-recipients were not protected and died of clinical GvHD. We found reduced numbers of donor T cells in the intestine but increased cell counts and tissue damage in other organs of VAD-recipients. Furthermore, we observed high IFN-γ(+)CD4(+) and low FoxP3(+)CD4(+) frequencies of total donor CD4(+) T cells in VAD as compared to STD recipients. Taken together, these results indicate that dietary vitamin A deficiency in HSCT-recipients changed target organ tropism in GvHD but also resulted in fatal inflammation after HSCT.

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