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Blood. 2014 Sep 25;124(13):2131-41. doi: 10.1182/blood-2013-10-525873. Epub 2014 Aug 18.

Donor CD4+ Foxp3+ regulatory T cells are necessary for posttransplantation cyclophosphamide-mediated protection against GVHD in mice.

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Division of Hematologic Malignancies, Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baltimore, MD;
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL; and.
Division of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Cancer Center, Minneapolis, MN.


Posttransplantation cyclophosphamide (PTCy) is an effective prophylaxis against graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). However, it is unknown whether PTCy works singularly by eliminating alloreactive T cells via DNA alkylation or also by restoring the conventional (Tcon)/regulatory (Treg) T-cell balance. We studied the role of Tregs in PTCy-mediated GVHD prophylaxis in murine models of allogeneic blood or marrow transplantation (alloBMT). In 2 distinct MHC-matched alloBMT models, infusing Treg-depleted allografts abrogated the GVHD-prophylactic activity of PTCy. Using allografts in which Foxp3(+) Tregs could be selectively depleted in vivo, either pre- or post-PTCy ablation of donor thymus-derived Tregs (tTregs) abolished PTCy protection against GVHD. PTCy treatment was associated with relative preservation of donor Tregs. Experiments using combinations of Foxp3(-) Tcons and Foxp3(+) Tregs sorted from different Foxp3 reporter mice indicated that donor Treg persistence after PTCy treatment was predominantly caused by survival of functional tTregs that retained Treg-specific demethylation and also induction of peripherally derived Tregs. Finally, adoptive transfer of tTregs retrieved from PTCy-treated chimeras rescued PTCy-treated, Treg-depleted recipients from lethal GVHD. Our findings indicate that PTCy-mediated protection against GVHD is not singularly dependent on depletion of donor alloreactive T cells but also requires rapidly recovering donor Tregs to initiate and maintain alloimmune regulation.

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