Functional divergence of antigen-specific T-lymphocyte responses in syngeneic graft-versus-host disease

Christopher J. Thoburn, Yuji Miura, Emilie C. Bright, Allan D. Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Administration of cyclosporine after autologous bone marrow transplantation elicits a T-lymphocyte autoaggression syndrome with remarkable similarity to graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). This syndrome, termed syngeneic GVHD (SGVHD), with both acute and chronic phases, is mediated by a restricted repertoire of autoreactive T cells that promiscuously recognize major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II determinants in association with a peptide from the invariant chain (MHC class II-invariant chain peptide; CLIP). This study evaluated and compared antigen-specific autoreactive T cells during acute and chronic SGVHD ex vivo isolated with a soluble MHC class II immunoglobulin molecular construct. This approach allows for the direct assessment of the functional behavior of the effector T cells without potential modification by in vitro culture. Two major subsets were detected that had overlapping specificity recognizing the MHC class II-binding domain of CLIP but that were differentially dependent on the N- and C-terminal flanking domains of this peptide. The N- and C-terminal subsets were primarily associated with acute and chronic SGVHD, respectively. The cytokine profiles of the CLIP-reactive T cells, however, were most informative and closely correlated with the onset and progression of disease. Levels of type 1 cytokine, particularly interferon-γ, messenger RNA (mRNA) production, assessed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction, were dominant during acute SGVHD, whereas chronic SGVHD was associated with type 2 cytokine mRNA production. Although there was a dramatic polarization with respect to cytokine production, only subtle changes in antigen specificity could be detected. Unexpectedly, the functional behavior within the antigen-specific effector cell populations is not fixed and seems to change as the disease progresses to the chronic phase. Concordant with the evolution of the effector T-cell response is a differential loss in B7.1 mRNA expression in the N-terminal CLIP-reactive T-cell subset that may reflect the regulation of this autoimmune response. Of additional interest, autoreactive T cells producing interleukin-10 mRNA were detected in both acute and chronic SGVHD, suggesting that this cytokine may play an important but perhaps paradoxical role in both the onset and progression of this experimental autoaggression syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-603
Number of pages13
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Co-stimulatory receptor expression
  • Cytokine polarization
  • Invariant chain peptide
  • MHC class II
  • Syngeneic graft-versus-host disease
  • T-cell repertoire diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation


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