HY-specific induced regulatory T cells display high specificity and efficacy in the prevention of acute graft-versus-host disease

Jun Li, Jessica Heinrichs, Kelley Haarberg, Kenrick Semple, Anandharaman Veerapathran, Chen Liu, Claudio Anasetti, Xue Zhong Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Naturally derived regulatory T cells (Tregs) may prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) while preserving graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) activity. However, clinical application of naturally derived regulatory T cells has been severely hampered by their scarce availability and nonselectivity. To overcome these limitations, we took alternative approaches to generate Ag-specific induced Tregs (iTregs) and tested their efficacy and selectivity in the prevention ofGVHDin preclinical models of bonemarrow transplantation.We selectedHY as a target Ag because it is a naturally processed, ubiquitously expressed minor histocompatibility Ag (miHAg) with a proven role in GVHD and GVL effect. We generated HY-specific iTregs (HY-iTregs) from resting CD4 T cells derived from TCR transgenic mice, in which CD4 cells specifically recognize HY peptide.We found that HY-iTregs were highly effective in preventing GVHD in male (HY+) but not female (HY2) recipients using MHC II-mismatched, parent-F1, and miHAg-mismatched murine bone marrow transplantation models. Interestingly, the expression of target Ag (HY) on the hematopoietic or nonhematopoietic compartment alone was sufficient for iTregs to prevent GVHD. Furthermore, treatment with HY-iTregs still preserved the GVL effect even against preestablished leukemia.We found that HY-iTregs were more stable in male than in female recipients. Furthermore, HY-iTregs expanded extensively in male but not female recipients, which in turn significantly reduced donor effector T cell expansion, activation, and migration into GVHD target organs, resulting in effective prevention of GVHD. This study demonstrates that iTregs specific for HY miHAgs are highly effective in controlling GVHD in an Ag-dependent manner while sparing the GVL effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-725
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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