Prolonged allograft survival through conditional and specific ablation of alloreactive T cells expressing a suicide gene

Biologie et Thérapeutique des Pathologies Immunitaires, UPMC/CNRS ESA 7087, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France.
Transplantation (Impact Factor: 3.83). 06/2000; 69(10):2154-61.
Source: PubMed


Control of antidonor activated T cells involved in allograft rejection while preserving immunocompetence is a challenging goal in transplantation. Engineered T cells expressing a viral thymidine kinase (TK) suicide gene metabolize the nontoxic prodrug ganciclovir (GCV) into a metabolite toxic only to dividing cells. We evaluated this suicide gene strategy for inducing transplantation tolerance in mice.
Transgenic mice expressing TK in mature T cells were analyzed for (i) specific T-cell depletion under GCV treatment upon various stimulations; (ii) outcome of allogeneic nonvascularized skin or heart allografts under a short 14-day GCV treatment initiated at the time of transplantation; and (iii) the capacities of T cells from such allotransplanted mice to proliferate in mixed lymphocyte reactions and to induce graft-versus-host disease in irradiated recipients with the genetic background of the donor allograft.
Upon in vitro or in vivo GCV treatment, only activated dividing TK T cells but not B cells were efficiently depleted. Acute rejection of allogeneic grafts was prevented and a significant prolongation of graft survival was obtained, although associated with signs of chronic rejection. Prolonged skin graft survival correlated with decreased in vitro and in vivo T-cell reactivities against donor alloantigens, whereas overall immunocompetence was preserved.
Efficient and specific depletion of alloreactive TK T cells can be achieved by administrating GCV. These results open new perspectives for the control of allogeneic graft rejection using suicide gene therapy.

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Available from: Véronique Thomas-Vaslin,
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    ABSTRACT: The ability to control T cell reactivity using suicide genes opens new perspectives for the treatment of T cell-mediated diseases. The therapeutic effect is achieved by the selective killing of thymidine kinase gene-modified activated T cells by ganciclovir (GCV). This strategy has been shown to control T cell alloreactivity efficiently after bone marrow or solid organ transplantation. Here, we aimed to determine whether an immunopathological process induced by a viral infection could be controlled by GCV when T cells express a thymidine kinase transgene. When transgenic mice were infected with the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, administration of GCV resulted in an efficient, but only transient, control of the immunopathological immune response. Further analysis revealed the existence of a minute population of GCV-insensitive T cells. These cells expand in response to the virus despite the presence of GCV and cause immunopathology before viral elimination is finally obtained. Thus, when confronted with a replicative virus, the efficacy of this genetic immunosuppression strategy is highly dependent on the presence of even small numbers of GCV-insensitive cells. These results emphasize the need for sufficient preclinical investigations with regard to the pathology and the nature of the immune response if suicide gene transfer is envisioned for new therapeutic indications.
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