Loss of normal thymic repertoire selection and persistence of autoreactive T cells in graft vs host disease.
Holländer GA., Widmer B., Burakoff SJ.
To assess the influence of graft vs host disease (GVHD) on T cell development and thymic repertoire selection, a murine transplantation model was chosen, in which donor (B10.BR: Mls-1b, Mls-2b) and recipient (CBA/J: Mls-1a, Mls-2a) mice differ in their minor lymphocyte-stimulating Ag. Mature splenic T cells of donor origin were added to the T cell-depleted bone marrow cells to induce moderate GVHD. When analyzed 5 and 10 wk after transplantation, animals with GVHD, but not disease-free controls, demonstrated aberrant thymic maturation with an increase in single positive, TCRhigh+ thymocytes. Phenotypic analysis of TCR V beta expression in mature thymocytes and peripheral T cells revealed a disruption of negative thymic selection of Mls-reactive T cells with the subsequent emergence of V beta 3+ and V beta 6+ T cells in mice with GVHD but not in controls. Using retroviral-mediated gene transfer to tag mature T cells, these V beta 3+ and V beta 6+ T cells could be shown to be derived from donor bone marrow precursors. Thymocytes expressing V beta 3 and V beta 6 were efficiently activated upon cross-linking of their TCRs and peripheral T cells from mice with GVHD proliferated to host-derived splenocytes in a MLR. When transferred to sublethally irradiated CBA/J recipients, only T cells from mice with GVHD expanded dramatically. These data suggest that the lack of proper thymic selection after bone marrow transplantation results in the survival and persistence of self-reactive T cells, which might be responsible for the autoimmune manifestations of chronic GVHD.