Donor T-cell alloreactivity against host thymic epithelium limits T-cell development after bone marrow transplantation.
Hauri-Hohl MM., Keller MP., Gill J., Hafen K., Pachlatko E., Boulay T., Peter A., Holländer GA., Krenger W.
Acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) impairs thymus-dependent T-cell regeneration in recipients of allogeneic bone marrow transplants through yet to be defined mechanisms. Here, we demonstrate in mice that MHC-mismatched donor T cells home into the thymus of unconditioned recipients. There, activated donor T cells secrete IFN-gamma, which in turn stimulates the programmed cell death of thymic epithelial cells (TECs). Because TECs themselves are competent and sufficient to prime naive allospecific T cells and to elicit their effector function, the elimination of host-type professional antigen-presenting cells (APCs) does not prevent donor T-cell activation and TEC apoptosis, thus precluding normal thymopoiesis in transplant recipients. Hence, strategies that protect TECs may be necessary to improve immune reconstitution following allogeneic bone marrow transplantation.