The Role of Foxp3+ Regulatory T Cells in Liver Transplant Tolerance
The liver has long been considered a tolerogenic organ that favors the induction of peripheral tolerance. The mechanisms underlying liver tolerogenicity remain largely undefined. In this study, we characterized Foxp3-expressing CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Treg) in liver allograft recipients and examined the role of Treg in inherent liver tolerogenicity by employing the mouse spontaneous liver transplant tolerance model. Orthotopic liver transplantation was performed from C57BL/10 (H2b) to C3H/HeJ (H2k) mice. The percentage of CD4+CD25+ Treg was expanded in the liver grafts and recipient spleens from day 5 up to day 100 posttransplantation, associated with high intracellular Foxp3 and CTLA4 expression. Immunohistochemistry further demonstrated significant numbers of Foxp3+ cells in the liver grafts and recipient spleens and increased transforming growth factor β expression in the recipient spleens throughout the time courses. Adoptive transfer of spleen cells from the long-term liver allograft survivors significantly prolonged donor heart graft survival. Depletion of recipient CD4+CD25+ Treg using anti-CD25 monoclonal antibody (250 μg/d) induced acute liver allograft rejection, associated with elevated anti-donor T-cell proliferative responses, CTL and natural killer activities, enhanced interleukin (IL)-2, interferon-γ, IL-10, and decreased IL-4 production, and decreased T-cell apoptotic activity in anti-CD25-treated recipients. Moreover, CTLA4 blockade by anti-CTLA4 monoclonal antibody administration exacerbated liver graft rejection when combined with anti-CD25 monoclonal antibody. Thus, Foxp3+CD4+CD25+ Treg appear to underpin spontaneous acceptance of major histocompatability complex– mismatched liver allografts in mice. CTLA4, IL-4, and apoptosis of alloreactive T cells appear to contribute to the function of Treg and regulation of graft outcome.
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