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Annu Rev Immunol. 1994;12:707-34.

Mechanisms of transplantation tolerance.

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Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, California 94305.


Transplantation tolerance, the long-term acceptance of grafted tissue in the absence of continuous immunosuppression, remains an elusive goal in humans, but it has been achieved in animal models using numerous approaches. The mechanisms behind graft acceptance vary according to the means used to create the state of acceptance. Several major mechanisms can now be recognized. While thymic deletion of T cells appears to be a mainstay of self-tolerance, its role in transplantation tolerance now seems to be less significant. In contrast, extrathymic mechanisms of transplantation tolerance seem to be major factors in long-term graft acceptance. If donor antigens are presented in a nonimmunogenic manner on the graft, e.g. due to modification of graft tissue by culture, peripheral T cells of the recipient may ignore the graft. Alternatively, nonstimulatory presentation of donor antigens on graft tissue can induce a state of unresponsiveness in recipient T cells, i.e. anergy, rather than activating them to destroy the graft. Suppression mechanisms also operate to control graft rejection and may be specific or nonspecific in nature. Specific suppression mechanisms might act in an idiotype or antigen-specific fashion, and evidence is accumulating that this may be mediated through the elaboration of cytokines. Donor antigen-specific T cells may be activated to produce "protective" cytokines which then regulate the generation of destructive T cells. Future therapies will be aimed at affecting graft acceptance through these peripheral mechanisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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