Increased frequency of regulatory T cells and selection of highly potent CD62L+ cells during treatment of human lung transplant recipients with rapamycin.
ABSTRACT The currently available immunosuppressive agents applied in human transplantation medicine are highly potent in the protection from acute allograft rejection. However, long-term allograft survival is still poor as these drugs fail to sufficiently prevent chronic allograft rejection. Naturally occurring regulatory T cells have been postulated as the key players to establish long-lasting transplantation tolerance. Thus, the development of immunosuppressive regimens which shift the pathological balance of cytopathic versus regulatory T cells of human allograft recipients towards a protective T-cell composition is a promising approach to overcome limitations of current transplantation medicine. Thirty-three patients that received rapamycin (RPM) or calcineurin inhibitor treatment following lung transplantation were included and their T-cell compartments analysed. Twelve healthy volunteers without history of lung disease served as controls. In this article, we show that treatment of human lung transplant recipients with RPM is associated with an increased frequency of regulatory T cells, as compared with treatment with calcineurin inhibitors or to healthy controls. Moreover, regulatory T cells during treatment with RPM were CD62Lhigh, a phenotype that displayed an enhanced immunosuppressive capacity ex vivo. Our data support the use of RPM in human lung transplant recipients and undertaking of further prospective studies evaluating its impact on allograft and patient survival.