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Blood. 1998 Apr 1;91(7):2360-8.

Induction of Fas (Apo-1, CD95)-mediated apoptosis of activated lymphocytes by polyclonal antithymocyte globulins.

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Laboratory of Immunology, INSERM, Hôpital E. Herriot, Lyon, France.


Polyclonal horse antilymphocyte and rabbit antithymocyte globulins (ATGs) are currently used in severe aplastic anemia and for the treatment of organ allograft acute rejection and graft-versus-host disease. ATG treatment induces a major depletion of peripheral blood lymphocytes, which contributes to its overall immunosuppressive effects. Several mechanisms that may account for lymphocyte lysis were investigated in vitro. At high concentrations (.1 to 1 mg/mL) ATGs activate the human classic complement pathway and induce lysis of both resting and phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells. At low, submitogenic, concentration ATGs induce antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity of PHA-activated cells, but not resting cells. They also trigger surface Fas (Apo-1, CD95) expression in naive T cells and Fas-ligand gene and protein expression in both naive and primed T cells, resulting in Fas/Fas-L interaction-mediated cell death. ATG-induced apoptosis and Fas-L expression were not observed with an ATG preparation lacking CD2 and CD3 antibodies. Susceptibility to ATG-induced apoptosis was restricted to activated cells, dependent on IL-2, and prevented by Cyclosporin A, FK506, and rapamycin. The data suggest that low doses of ATGs could be clinically evaluated in treatments aiming at the selective deletion of in vivo activated T cells in order to avoid massive lymphocyte depletion and subsequent immunodeficiency.

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