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Blood. 2001 Dec 1;98(12):3367-75.

Selective T-cell subset ablation demonstrates a role for T1 and T2 cells in ongoing acute graft-versus-host disease: a model system for the reversal of disease.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520-8035, USA.


Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality of allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Strategies to control GVHD while maintaining graft versus leukemia (GVL) include herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSV-tk) gene transduction of donor T cells followed by treatment with ganciclovir (GCV). Alternatively, GVHD and GVL may be mediated by distinct processes. In this regard, whether cytokine polarization occurs and to what degrees various subsets of cytokine-producing T cells mediate GVHD or GVL has been an active area of research using cytokine or cytokine antibody infusion or genetically deficient mice. This study takes a different approach that allows simultaneous investigation into both the mechanisms underlying GVHD reactions and the efficacy of HSV-tk suicide gene-based T-cell deletion. A source of donor T cells, splenocytes from mice transgenic for HSV-tk controlled by elements of either the interleukin-2 (IL-2) or IL-4 promoters (IL-2-tk and IL-4-tk, respectively) was used, thus allowing investigation into the roles of T1 and T2 cells in ongoing GVHD reactions. To assess treatment rather than prevention of GVHD, GCV was started at peak disease. Remarkably, treatment at this late time point rescued mice from the clinical effects of GVHD caused by T cells expressing either transgene. Thus, both T1 and T2 cells play an important role in clinical GVHD in a minor histocompatibility antigen-mismatched setting. In addition, because clinical disease was reversible even at its maximum, these observations provide controlled evidence that this strategy of treating ongoing GVHD could be effective clinically.

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