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J Immunol. 2013 Jun 1;190(11):5829-38. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300458. Epub 2013 Apr 29.

Copresentation of intact and processed MHC alloantigen by recipient dendritic cells enables delivery of linked help to alloreactive CD8 T cells by indirect-pathway CD4 T cells.

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Department of Surgery, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, United Kingdom.


In transplantation, direct-pathway CD8 T cells that recognize alloantigen on donor cells require CD4 help for activation and cytolytic function. The ability of indirect-pathway CD4 T cells to provide this help remains unexplained, because a fundamental requirement for epitope linkage is seemingly broken. The simultaneous presentation, by host dendritic cells (DCs), of both intact MHC class I alloantigen and processed alloantigen would deliver linked help, but has not been demonstrated definitively. In this study, we report that following in vitro coculture with BALB/c DCs, small numbers (~1.5%) of C57BL/6 (B6) DCs presented acquired H-2(d) alloantigen both as processed allopeptide and as unprocessed Ag. This represented class I alloantigen provides a conformational epitope for direct-pathway allorecognition, because B6 DCs isolated from cocultures and transferred to naive B6 mice provoked cytotoxic CD8 T cell alloimmunity. Crucially, this response was dependent upon simultaneous presentation of class II-restricted allopeptide, because despite acquiring similar amounts of H-2(d) alloantigen upon coculture, MHC class II-deficient B6 DCs failed to elicit cytotoxic alloimmunity. The relevance of this pathway to solid-organ transplantation was then confirmed by the demonstration that CD8 T cell cytotoxicity was provoked in secondary recipients by transfer of DCs purified from wild-type, but not from MHC class II-deficient, C57BL/6 recipients of BALB/c heart transplants. These experiments demonstrate that representation of conformationally intact MHC alloantigen by recipient APC can induce cytotoxic alloimmunity, but simultaneous copresentation of processed allopeptide is essential, presumably because this facilitates linked recognition by indirect-pathway CD4 Th cells.

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